sat 13/07/2024

Allied | reviews, news & interviews



Doomed but entertaining attempt to revive 1940s Hollywood

Play it again, Brad: Pitt with Marion Cotillard

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!).Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt in AlliedNonetheless 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 in The Big ShortFury. 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

Their cup of happiness runneth over when Marianne gives birth to their daughter in the middle of a spectacular CGI air raid


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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Why the surprise about cocaine use in 1943? Cole Porter mentioned it in I Get A Kick, written a decade earlier.

He did, but that wasn't during a world war. They surely weren't importing cocaine in the wartime transatlantic convoys? Amphetamines very popular in WW2 apparently.

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