Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: Steven Knight
Stars: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris
Allied is a blatant attempt at recapturing the spirit of the classic Humphrey Bogart style romantic war films that you’d be accustomed to watching on TCM in the middle of the afternoon. The type my grandfather seemed to have on permanently whenever I walked in. A romantic drama that features very little drama and painfully forced romance. I’ve honestly not seen romance done this bad since Attack of the Clones. It’s not for the want of trying, with Pitt and Cotillard performing fairly well, but you just can’t fake chemistry when it isn’t there.
Beginning in 1942 within Nazi occupied Casablanca. The opening shot reveals Canadian paratrooper Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) parachuting into the sandy dunes of French Morocco’s desert tundra. A car soon appears to whisk him into the city, with the driver telling Max that his ‘wife’ is in the blue dress. Cut to the streets of Casablanca and there’s Camels, lots of Camels. Max, wearing an immaculate suit, walks into the club and after a brief glance around, soon spots Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), the cigarette smoking, resistance infiltrator disguised as his wife. She’s apparently created quite the cover story, rather bizarrely telling her friends that Canadian born Max is a mining engineer and native Parisian. Cue the inevitable awkwardness that follows with a terrible sounding French accent. Thankfully our main protagonist quickly sees sense and makes a sharp exit. Truth be told, it’s a rather odd beginning to an even odder film. American born Pitt, playing a Canadian soldier working for the British, whilst putting on a false French accent is just too much for my brain to process.
A short car ride and narrow miss for another camel later; our leading pair arrive at their temporary digs for the next ten days. They’re here to assassinate the German ambassador who is hosting a lavish party. In the days leading up to the party, we see the pair go about their daily business as fake husband and wife. The whole shenanigans resembling one of my all-time favourite X-Files episodes: Arcadia. At least Mulder and Scully had bucket loads of on screen chemistry, which is more than can be said for Max and Marianne. It has to be said that the pacing in this opening 45 minutes is choppy at best. There’s a cool cafe scene, that features Max taking out a German officer, walking back to his table for a final sip of his coffee, before strolling away with a degree of nonchalance that would make James Bond proud. Some unnecessary chatter scenes between the leading two that feel like a half hearted attempt at developing the relationship and failing to do so. A short cameo from August Diehl, whose character could have been lifted straight from Inglorious Basterds, such is the glaring similarities between the two. And finally, on the eve of the operation, a completely bizarre sex scene in a car during a particularly vicious looking sand storm, with some rotating camera shots that are still leaving me scratching my head in bemusement just now.
When the party finally arrives, the scene is over so quickly that you’d be forgiven for thinking just why hell they wasted the best part of an hour in setting it up. The choreography was lacklustre and it completely lacked any sort of suspense whatsoever. Both make it out after slaughtering all but one woman, lord knows why they spared her? The film never does explain it. Then completely out of the blue, Max blurts out “Come with me to London and be my wife”. And here was me giving them a bye because their relationship was supposed to be fake. Oops.
The film then jumps forward a couple of weeks with Max in England and a short scene plays out with his commanding officer telling him “Marriages made in the field never work”. On reflection, perhaps he should have listened to him. We then see another jump in time with Marianne giving birth outside, during the middle of an air raid in London. Now, if you’ll excuse my ignorance please. I know health and safety wasn’t up to the lofty standards of today back in the 1940s, but wouldn’t it be much safer delivering a baby inside the hospital? Like, even take them down to the basement if it’s absolutely necessary to move. But I digress. There’s yet another jump into the future. Perhaps unsurprisingly, with Robert Zemeckis directing. The couple are now living a fairly happy existence in wartime London. That is until Max gets notified by his commanding officer Frank Heslop (Jared Harris) to attend a top secret meeting with an overly cheeky intelligence chief (Simon McBurney). He’s rather bluntly told that Marianne is suspected of being a German spy, the real Marianne apparently having been killed and replaced back in 1941, and that they’ll be running a blue dye operation. If the suspicions are proven to be true then Max will have to kill his wife or face certain death himself on charges of high treason. Again, I’m no expert on spies and their punishments after being caught, but that surely can’t be how they dealt with these things just 74 years ago.
Visually, I can’t fault the film. Don Burgess does a more than decent job of recreating the period. There’s a few minor issues, such as regular pleb German soldiers running around with Nazi armbands, which is historically inaccurate. Overall though, the film looks fantastic and the costume designs are immaculate with Mr. Pitt in particular looking dapper throughout. And a quick mention must be made about the opening shot of Max walking across the top of a sand dune, which was absolutely beautiful looking. Musically, the film is nothing outstanding by any means. Alan Silvestri does an ok job. The first 45 minutes had a rather strange action score, that for me, would be more fitting within a modern setting, but in fairness as the film progresses, things improve substantially. With lots of fairly decent violin parts adding some hint of emotion to proceedings.
The final act of the film then follows Max’s frantic attempts over a three day period to find out the truth about his wife. He even goes as far as flying to France for one night, receiving help from the resistance to break into a jail and speak with the only man alive that can verify the appearance of the real Marianne Beuséjour. Expecting a twist at the end, I was disappointed with the predictable nature of the last 15-20 minutes and was left with a sense of emptiness as the credits rolled. I can’t honestly recommend this extremely disappointing film to anyone.