Allied | reviews, news & interviews
Doomed but entertaining attempt to revive 1940s Hollywood
While it makes for a moderately amusing evening out, this World War Two espionage-romance caper doesn't stand up to a lot of scrutiny (I'm trying to work out where they managed to find the "Best Film of the Year!" quote used in the TV ad). Stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard will guarantee some ticket-shifting action, but the apparent intention of director Robert Zemeckis and screenwriter Steven Peaky Blinders Knight to recreate Hollywood's vintage wartime melodramas never quite comes off.
Still, it's quite fun to see them trying. The opening scene is a shot of sun-scorched desert sands carrying the caption "French Morocco, 1942", and into the top of the frame descends a pair of boots belonging to Canadian agent Max Vatan (Pitt), as he arrives by parachute. He's heading to – where else? – Casablanca to meet French Resistance veteran Marianne Beauséjour (that would be Ms Cotillard). She has inveigled her way into the local beau monde, where she rubs shoulders in the treacherous Vichy air with both French and Germans. Brad, posing as a phosphate engineer, purports to have come from Paris to reunite with his fictional wife.
Of course, they're really on an assassination mission, though there's some time to soak up the sultry North African night and hang out at the updated version of Rick's cafe. Marianne isn't too happy about Max's Parisian accent though, which is fair enough because Brad's mumbling French is little better than his music-hall Italian in Inglourious Basterds (and how Allied could do with some of the latter's deranged inventiveness and ferocious black humour!).
Nonetheless the Casablanca job is doubly successful, since the couple not only zap their target but also fall in love (they seal the deal in the back seat of a car, as it rocks in a tempestuous sandstorm). Suddenly it's a year later, and Max and Marianne are happily married and living in Hampstead, NW3. Mysteriously detached from the war, they're enjoying a riotous life, with their gaggle of bohemian, cocaine-snorting (really, in 1943?) friends. Their cup of happiness runneth over when Marianne gives birth to their daughter while being frantically wheeled around on a hospital bed in the middle of a spectacular CGI air raid.
But just when it was all going so well, a bitter chill blows through in the shape of a baleful senior SOE officer (Simon McBurney). He describes himself as a "rat-catcher", and he has reason to believe that there's a Nazi informer operating in the immediate vicinity (I'm doing my no-spoilers best here, though I can reveal that Anton Lesser's shifty Hampstead jeweller needs to be carefully watched). Max refuses to believe it, but the mole must be caught and Max goes into spy-hunting overdrive, even hijacking an RAF plane and taking a wildly improbable awayday to occupied France to quiz a possible witness who's languishing in a French prison. There's also a macabre walk-on by a barely recognisable Matthew Goode, gothically disfigured in aerial combat.
If only Marianne had played "La Marseillaise" to Max, everything could have been so very different. As it is, Cotillard's ability to suggest latent melancholy and a secret inner life allows her to march imperiously off with most of the acting plaudits, while Brad was probably better suited to that tank-commander's job in Fury. The Royal Navy next time, perhaps?
BRAD PITT’S BIG MOMENTS
Fury. David Ayer and Brad Pitt take the war film by the scruff of the neck
Inglorious Basterds. Pitt is gloriously absurd in Tarantino WW2 alternative history
Killing Them Softly. Brad Pitt cleans up an almighty mess in Andrew Dominik’s high-calibre crime ensemble
Moneyball. How Billy Beane created a revolution in Major League baseball
The Big Short. Pitt’s on the money as director Adam McKay successfully makes a drama out of a crisis
The Counsellor. Ridley Scott ensemble thriller is nasty, brutish and short or mysterious, upsetting and alluring
The Tree of Life. Terrence Malick’s elliptical epic leads us through time, space and one family’s story
PLUS ONE TURKEY
World War Z. It's World War with a Zee as Brad Pitt battles the undead and a zombie script
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