Verdict: Allied has some beautiful moments and maintains suspense, but never quite comes together, despite its impressive star power. Catch it on cheap ticket day, or HBO.
Synopsis: “The story of intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt), who in 1942 North Africa encounters French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Reunited in London, their relationship is threatened by the extreme pressures of the war.” Directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Steven Knight.
The Good: Incredible talent in front of and behind the camera, intriguing style, and successful suspense
Allied movie has a disgusting amount of talent on both sides of the camera. It’s directed, written, and shot by Zemeckis (Back to the Future), Knight (Easter Promises), and Don Burgess (Spider-Man) respectively, has Alan Silvestri (Avengers) on music, and of course, Pitt and Cotillard in the lead. And you can really feel that talent in both its style, pacing, and acting. Pitt is his normal talented self, providing a performance that is not groundbreaking, but in no way bad. Cotillard is incredibly charming, but also gives a nuanced and emotional performance that I haven’t seen from her before.
The style is really intriguing, and is perhaps the thing that sticks out the most. It often feels like you’re watching a movie about a movie, set in the 1940s. It feels like an homage to the films of that era, Casablanca and Foreign Correspondent, where things are highly stylized, the color saturation is turned up, and it feels like a set, but not in a bad way. The most interesting choice is how they showcase certain intimate moments between Pitt and Cotillard, where some chaotic event is happening around them, a sandstorm or an air raid, but the focus is entirely on their interaction. It is an intimate spy film, a war movie about romance and politics and intrigue, which is pretty rare these days.
Just as rare is unpredictable plots and maintained suspense, both of which it has in spades. Every time I thought I knew where the plot was going, it took a different turn. These twists, and the suspense overall, are built through a slow burn, making the audience sit through extended innocuous scenes, like a house party, to get to the ultimate payoff.
The Bad: Some hard to believe moments contribute to a general feeling of underachievement
While the movie does a good job of keeping the audience guessing, it tries to solve its own plot with some fairly hard-to-believe scenarios as well. They require just a tad too much suspension of disbelief, especially considering the movie took a more realistic tone. At times it feels more James Bond then mostly-realistic-WWII-spy film.
It’s hard to explain what the other bad part of the film is, because it doesn’t feel like one thing in particular. Everything is just almost there. Pitt and Cotillard are good but not great, as is the story, script, style, etc. It’s entertaining and engaging, but never feels capable of going past the cusp of great. While this isn’t the most technical way to critique something, it is an important part of films, akin to “mouth-feel” in food criticism. It’s just there, and you either have it or you don’t. And this doesn’t quite have it.
The Ugly: Little to no POC, and it fails the Bechdel Test pretty completely