Allied a Solid if Unmemorable Romantic Thriller
Review by Daniel Rester
Allied, the latest from skillful filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, is an admirably made if unremarkable WWII picture. It’s one of those films that you can watch and really enjoy in the moment but doesn’t hold much for repeat value down the road.
The film – written by the prolific and talented screenwriter Steven Knight – concerns a Canadian spy named Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) dropping into North Africa circa 1942 for a secret mission. He teams up with undercover resistance fighter Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), with the two pretending to be husband and wife as they plan to take down a high-profile Nazi at a party. They then unexpectedly fall in love for real, get married and have a child, and live happily ever after… until some allies tell Vatan that his wife may actually be a German spy.
Allied is a film that looks great every step of the way. Cinematographer Don Burgess makes the most of his beautiful framing – with some excellent pull-back-shots – and Joanna Johnston’s costume design is impeccably detailed. The desert locations in the film’s first half also provide for a few eye-popping moments, recalling WWII movie classics in their natural look accompanying the story.
Zemeckis feels like he’s a bit on cruise control with his directing here, never hitting the creative or emotional heights he’s achieved in some of his best films like Back to the Future (1985), Forrest Gump (1994), Contact (1997), and Cast Away (2000). The same goes for Pitt and Cotillard with their acting. The two are occasionally stiff, though sometimes they do peel back layers to show character and feeling. None of the work from these three here comes off poorly per se, I just expected a bit more given the talent involved.
Allied does provide a decent amount of romantic and thrilling scenes. I loved the opening, a dialogue-free sequence that immediately builds interest. There are also a couple of other standout moments, one involving a tense card game and the other a nighttime shootout in a jailhouse. Zemeckis also shows he has a fine eye for quick bursts of violence, showcasing this throughout.
I’ve seen better wartime romance thrillers than Allied, but I’ve also seen much worse too. The film is well made and entertaining, yet it’s not too emotionally resonant. It’s one of those movies that I admired but may not watch again in the near future.
My Grade: B+ (on an F to A+ scale).
MPAA Rating: R (for violence, some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use).