Robert Zemeckis’ new film, Allied, is a World War 2 romantic drama starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as Max Vatan, a Canadian intelligence operative, and Marianne Beausejour, a French resistance fighter, who meet in Casablanca on a joint intelligence mission to assassinate a German officer. After their mission is complete, the pair move to London, get married and have a daughter. All seems to be going well, until a former colleague informs Max that his wife may have been spying for the Nazis all along.
The film builds tension around the central relationship through unhurried conversations and suggestive words and actions, and does a pretty good job of establishing an atmosphere of suspicion. Writer Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Locke) clearly enjoys writing dialogue, and Allied is at its best when it’s in a suggestive, inquisitive mode. Where the film is less certain, unfortunately, is the romance, which despite the presence of two excellent actors in Pitt and Cotillard, never quite fizzes into life in the way it would’ve needed to in order for this to be something truly memorable.
Zemeckis and his cinematographer Don Burgess handle the time period well and there are strong set pieces in here (including the build-up to and staging of the assassination), as well as some convincing effects work that allows the sets and the CGI to blend pretty imperceptibly. There’s also welcome support from Jared Harris as Max’s boss, and an amusingly dour, if brief, turn from Simon McBurney as an implacable intelligence officer.
The final act is a tad rushed (perhaps as a result of the extended opening) and not entirely believable, but I was moved by it, and felt the tension in the middle section, so for me the film worked. It occasionally feels a little stilted in its storytelling, as though it’s holdi ng something back (much like its protagonists), but this tale of spies in love, which is old-fashioned in its storytelling, mostly in a good way, has enough charm to be worth a look.