Sam Kaufman ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Allied is the latest film by Robert Zemeckis and features two WWII allied powers spies who must team up in Morocco to assassinate a high ranking Nazi official. These spies are named Max, a Canadian intelligence officer (Brad Pitt), and Marianne, a French resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard). Cast into the role of playing a married couple, Max and Marianne quickly start to develop real chemistry and attraction, helped in no small part by the fact that they are both some of the most attractive human beings alive.
This story – two spies who fall in love once it becomes obvious that they are doing more than just acting like they are in love – is one that has been done before, but Allied adds more layers to the trope. Very quickly, Max and Marianne complete their mission, fall in love, and have a child. Unlike similar star-crossed-spies movies, the real tension here is not revealed until the third act, when Max learns that Marianne is suspected of being a double agent working for the Nazis. In addition to being the main conflict of the film, this plot point adds even more depth to the love story and more doubt to whether or not the love is a fabrication of war.
Allied has been in the tabloids frequently this year, because while filming this movie that Brad Pitt (allegedly) cheated on his longtime partner Angelina Jolie with co-star Marion Cotillard, possibly contributing to the couple’s recent divorce. Of course, the accusations of adultery are merely rumors, but it is difficult to entirely push the real-life drama out of your head when you are watching the relationship between Pitt and Cotillard unfold on screen. This adds yet another layer to one of the central questions of this film – Is a person flirting with you because they are attracted to you, or simply because their job, whether professional actor or professional spy, requires it?
Both Pitt and Cotillard give believable, honest performers, reminding audiences why these two rose to become movie stars in the first place. Unfortunately, the film’s structure works against the actors, making their love seem more farfetched. In a movie that is at it’s core a chronicle of one relationship, Allied unfortunately often has to cut large sections of this development. One egregious example of this happens early on when the couple go from first kiss to confession of love in seemingly no time flat. This strange structure is also jarring when the couple completes their big mission roughly 30 minutes into the film and you are left wondering how the next hour and a half will be filled. As the plot develops, the fun and thrilling tension of the first half is replaced with tension that is far direr, and at times even crushingly sad.
The film features very strong homages to Casablanca both in the setting and in how it portrays war. Like Casablanca, Allied features no war heroes. There is no glory in war – only meaningless death, nonstop fear and destroyed families. This is an important (if wildly unoriginal) message, but the heavy-handedness with which Zemeckis drives these points home often unintentionally pushes dramatic moments into being melodramatic, or occasionally eye-roll-inducing. It is understandable that Zemeckis wants to ensure that the point of his film is not missed by the audience, but nothing leaves a bad taste in the mouth like feeling talked down to by a filmmaker. This could also be partly due to the script, which is perfectly adequate, but never reaches for anything more than it is. This is peculiar, given that Allied was written by Steven Knight, the writer/director of Locke, which is one of the best written films of the last few years.
Allied is well shot, well-acted, and tells a gripping story, but the film never rises to more than the sum of its parts. While watching it, the film is engrossing, but the director’s reluctance to trust the audience with anything more complex results in a film that is enjoyable, but quickly forgettable.
Overall Grade: C+
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