Despite its WW2 setting, Allied is first and foremost a romance in which two beautiful people in beautiful costumes kill some Nazis and fall in love. Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump), this old-fashioned spy caper is well made and looks lovely, yet it somehow fails to resonate. The problem is that the romantic drama, in which our two lovebirds find themselves caught in an impossible situation, dilutes the effectiveness of the film as a spy thriller and it is perhaps the lack of chemistry between the two leads that is to blame. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are both polished performers and Cotillard, in particular, has proven herself to be an actor with remarkable range, but given how much this couple are supposed to love each other, there is a distinct lack of passion beyond a somewhat comical sex scene in a car amid a sand storm in the Moroccan desert.
It is in Morocco where Canadian paratrooper Max Vatan (Pitt) joins forces with Marianne Beauséjour (Cotillard), a member of the French Resistance, with a mission to assassinate the German Ambassador in Casablanca. To infiltrate the inner circle of the German social and military establishment in Casablanca, Max and Marianne pose as a married couple in a bid to secure an invitation to an event at which the ambassador will be appearing. At the completion of their mission which, of course, doesn’t go exactly to plan, Max suggests that Marianne join him in London as his wife. A year later, the couple are living happily in London with Marianne heavily pregnant. In another hackneyed scene, Marianne is evacuated from the hospital and forced to give birth outside as air raids bombard the city. Soon after, Max is summoned to a meeting in which he learns that Marianne is suspected of being a German spy. Max is ordered to set a trap for Marianne with explicit instructions to kill her should the suspicions be confirmed. With heavy clouds of distrust hovering over the relationship, Max finds himself torn between his love for Marianne and the obligations of his position.
In a scenario that should generate plenty of tension, there is surprisingly very little. Sure, Marianne is very likeable and the thought of her being executed just because she maybe hasn’t been entirely honest with husband (just like every other wife who has ever walked the earth) might be a little unsettling for some, but ultimately you never really become invested enough in either character to really care too much what the truth may be. Even if she is a spy, why is Max the one who has to terminate her? What about a trial? Nope, that doesn’t make for riveting cinema apparently. This isn’t a terrible film, but nor is it particularly memorable in any way. It is very easy to get caught up in the glamour of it all and forget that there is something potentially tragic playing out. Regardless of how it ends, the seeds of suspicion have been planted and the relationship between Max and Marianne will never be the same.
The movie looks great and the opening scene of Max parachuting into Morocco is hypnotically beautiful, while Cotillard is coiffured as a stylized studio-era starlet with access to a seemingly endless array of frocks, hats, coats and suits. Zemeckis has made more ambitious films and has helmed some of the most ground breaking productions to come out of Hollywood, such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Polar Express. As such, Allied might be his most conventional film yet, drawing on the traditions of the past to make something that is instantly recognisable but doesn’t, unfortunately, have anything new to say. The strong supporting cast includes Matthew Goode, Simon McBurney and Jared Harris, with Lizzy Caplan criminally underused as Max’s sister. A pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours, but don’t expect Allied to linger long after the credits have rolled.