Allied’s Aesthetics Overshadow its Story
As soon as I saw that “Allied” was essentially Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard fighting Nazi forces in the same land where Rick Blaine uttered the famous line, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” I couldn’t get to the theater fast enough.
And while director Robert Zemeckis’ World War II romantic thriller might not have lived up to the lofty expectation I’d set for it in my mind, it certainly didn’t miss them by all that much.
Brad Pitt as Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard as Marianne Beausejour in ‘Allied’ from Paramount Pictures. (Photo by Daniel Smith. © 2016 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.)
Max Vatan (Pitt) is a Canadian intelligence officer, dropped into Morocco at the height of World War II with the mission to assassinate Nazis. Helping him on his top-secret detail is French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) – who has been laying groundwork for months that the two are married and he is simply working back in Paris.
As the mission grows nearer and the danger greater, the pair become closer and – unsurprisingly – love blossoms.
Once their mission has run its course, Max must return to London and he asks Marianne to get married and join him. She accepts and the two settle into normal married life. Or, whatever passes for normal during a world war.
Things quickly change, however, as Max’s superior officers suspect Marianne is a German spy and set out to catch her in the act. If their suspicions are correct, Max will be asked to do the unthinkable. Convinced of his beloved’s innocence puts his life, career and the lives of others on the line to prove his wife is who he says she is and not the monster she’s been portrayed as.
Brad Pitt as Max Vatan Beausejour in ‘Allied’ from Paramount Pictures. (Photo by Daniel Smith. © 2016 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.)
When thinking of “Allied” as a whole, the first word that comes to mind is “beautiful.” The locations, the costumes, the camera work – it’s all stunning. Cotillard has this classic beauty and elegance about her that lends itself well to this time period. As for Pitt, well, that guy can wear a suit with the best of them.
Unfortunately, the story – or at least its delivery – doesn’t live up to the film’s aesthetic beauty.
On the surface, the idea is outstanding. I mean, the romantic spy thriller isn’t the most common mashup around, and when done right they can be outstanding. Now add in global evil vs. the powers of good in the same country where “Casablanca” was set and you’ve got me hooked. However, “Allied” takes quite a while to get going, seemingly a little aimless in the first act while setting up what’s to come.
Marion Cotillard as Marianne Beausejour in ‘Allied’ from Paramount Pictures. (Photo by Daniel Smith. © 2016 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.)
Fortunately, things pick up dramatically after the setting shifts to London. The intrigue builds as Max tries to prove Marianne’s innocence, all the while making himself look guilty himself. There’s a palpable tension that builds throughout, virtually making you forget about the first act. Sadly, it fades again by the time the end of the movie rolls around, and you realize that every predictable plot point and unsubtle beat you noticed along the way was, in fact, not put there to throw you off, but to steer you to exactly where you thought you were heading all along.
With just a tad of unpredictability or sustained suspense, “Allied” would’ve been elevated to a whole other level. Heck, had there been just a few more minutes trimmed from the first act and devoted to the London activities it would have likely accomplished the same thing.
At the end of the day, “Allied” has big ambitions and it nearly meets them. It’s beautiful to look at and the intrigue built during the middle of the film make it worth watching. However, the slow start, cliché ending and horribly telegraphed beats leave it as just another average WWII story.
★★★ of ★★★★★