Starring Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Simon McBurney, Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode
2.5 STARS (out of 5)
Allied is a strange movie to be creeping along into the final days of November – romantic thrillers don’t normally pop in in the dying moments of the year, but then again, it’s hard to say exactly where they fit in best. That being said, this type of movie is perhaps fairly lacking in cinema, certainly this year – is this as a result of the genre having been done to death? Or is there simply more scope in the comic book adaptations and psychological horrors that seem to be doing the rounds in recent months? Regardless of which take is more on the money, Allied certainly strives to be a modern classic, but stumbles ever so subtly on its way to doing so.
Max (Pitt) and Marianne (Cotillard) are wartime assassins, finding themselves thrown into each other’s lives when they team up to kill a Nazi ambassador stationed in Casablanca in the early 1940s. From this, the two fall in love, marry and raise a child – only for their relationship to take a more twisted turn in the years to come, as Max receives information that suggests Marianne is never who she said she was – rather that she is a German spy, and that the real Marianne never made it to Casablanca. From here, Max strives to find out the truth while wrestling with the very real possibility that his wife may have been an enemy agent all along.
Robert Zemeckis was once regarded as Hollywood royalty – there’s no denying that he is still an exceptional film-maker and this is a movie that clearly lavishes itself in small, knowing touches and in period staging and costume. This being said, Allied is a million miles away from the likes of Zemeckis’ earlier triumphs – it sadly won’t go down in the history books as the next Back To The Future. It is indeed a shame, as, despite there being genuine potential for gripping drama and tense, smouldering chemistry between the two leads, Allied never really seems to lead anywhere other than a forgone conclusion.
Both Pitt and Cotillard are A-list stars in their own right and they are fantastic character actors – here, however, they simply lack the depth of chemistry to be able to sell the audience a tale of love wraught by possible deception and the horrors of war. It’s a movie that really wallows in the central relationship and therefore offers little in the way of insight into World War II – in addition to the fact that it becomes rather obvious early on that Zemeckis is making a brave attempt to recapture the brilliance of the classic Casablanca movie – something which lesser directors have tried and failed at, and while Allied isn’t necessarily terrible, it is terribly clunky and rather uninspiring at times.
The acting talent helps the picture going and Pitt in particular is still one of Hollywood’s best living actors – matters regarding his private life perhaps haven’t led this movie to doing as well as expected with viewing audiences, but his name will still pull in the box office money. Zemeckis remains as painstaking and as intricate in his film-making as always, but perhaps a little too much so – this is a movie that can feel a little too slow and a little too old-timey to be able to get where it wants to go.
That being said, anyone enraptured by the idea of the plot or by the notion of war movies and thrillers in general may well have a good time here. In a climate where bigger, brasher movies have excelled through a more expansive focus and a snappier script or two, Allied rather plods along at its own pace, not particularly instilling much in the way of on-the-edge excitement. It’s tense in places and is well-cast, but it feels oddly as if it was released in the wrong century altogether – and in plot and execution alone it doesn’t particularly lend itself to being much of a modern classic.
All things considered, Allied is a perfectly well-made movie that will likely entertain many – and it’s certainly no waste of an evening’s money – but as many critics have pointed out, it just seems to lack that final spark of killer instinct, that punch, that ferocity, to tip itself into all-time classic territory. As such, there are some great performances here, and Zemeckis is still a fine director – but Allied, on a whole, perhaps won’t go down as one of 2016’s most memorable movies, rather one that is left middling in a sea of other mediocre titles around the November to February period. Perhaps we are all expecting our war movies to be more like Inglourious Basterds these days – an attitude that won’t serve us too well when movies such as Allied are, admittedly, trying their hardest.