Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard
Running time: 124 minutes
Visually stylish, Robert Zemeckis’ Allied struggles with being little more than a glossy, unremarkable WWII action tale, where characters and ideas are as generic as they come.
Set in 1942, after being parachuted into the French-Moroccan desert, the film follows Canadian muscle Max Vatan (Pitt) who, along with French agent Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) must convincingly play husband and wife to fulfil their mission of assassinating the German ambassador. It soon becomes apparent that, while a true romance blossoms, there is something much deeper and more dangerous at play.
Call it an extension of the character arcs in Allied if you will, but Zemeckis’ film itself doesn’t appear to be quite sure exactly what it wants to be. Stylistically, the first third feels like Oceans Eleven plays WWII re-enactment – a sexy, sassily scripted espionage set-up, however altogether, feeling like an extended tutorial in pulling off the perfect fake husband and wife act. Pitt and Cotillard are the epitome of glamorous, but neither come close to those performances that have made them household names – both appear somewhat self-contained within roles that do very little to extend beyond the archetypal construction of the rugged, macho male and sultry, seductive female. Cotillard’s Marianne is marginally more intriguing than Pitt’s Vatan, but even so, during these early exchanges, things on the whole feel superficial and generic; where, in the steamy Casablanca heat, the film is frustratingly unremarkable and glazed with tinges of classic Hollywood of a bygone era, but ultimately never getting anywhere near such standards. Instead, there is a growing inferiority and narrative predictability where the turns, dilemmas faced and themes explored are clad in a form all too familiar and the script feels so frustratingly hollow with cliché after cringy cliché.
After taking far too long to get to its narrative centre point, Allied goes some way to redeeming itself in its second half when the streets of French Morocco eventually become a greying London of the Blitz era. It’s here that the story is given a thin layer of emotional flesh with revelations of paths being crossed, and loved ones betrayed. And the film – despite its war time setting – is far more interesting in these quieter, more damning moments of realisation than it is when, say, Brad Pitt goes full Rambo on a truck load of German soldiers. But even during these more emotionally charged, intimate episodes, the film staggers clumsily over its moral battleground – a young pilot’s death lacks its intended sucker punch because of the film’s failure to invest enough time in its character development on a deeper, emotional level. Despite late attempts to give us something more, it’s difficult to see beyond what is essentially an extended cat-walk of period costumes and Brad Pitt’s faultless hair. At one point, early on, Cotillard’s character indicates that “Being good at this kind of work is not very beautiful”; the irony here of course being that the film itself is great to look at, but just not very good.
Caught somewhere between generic, raunchy thriller and period drama, Allied is certainly more spectacle than it is feel. While it’s certainly not terrible, there is nothing here that even resembles memorable – Zemeckis’ film is that handsome, well-dressed party guest who turns out to have very little by way of personality.