Review: Allied

Baffling plot decisions and zero chemistry between Cotillard and Pitt hobble Allied, but there’s still some nostalgic charm. An old-fashioned affair.

A week short of the New Year’s Day release of Justin Kurzel’s truly awful computer game adaptation Assassin’s Creed, Marion Cotillard fares a good deal better in the Robert Zemeckis’ Allied.

Opening on Boxing Day, it’s a thoroughly old-fashioned, romantic spy movie, with Cotillard as Casablanca-based French double agent Marianne Beauséjour. The year is 1942 and she’s in deep cover, infiltrating the local Nazi superiors ahead of an assassination attempt. An exciting set up, there’s good material in this tense opening act and it’s not hard to imagine the film would be far more successful if it weren’t for a frustratingly leaden performance by Brad Pitt as Max Vatan, her Canadian counterpart sent to aid the mission while pretending to be her countryman husband freshly arrived from Paris.

That his accent is truly appalling and doesn’t even pass for French, let alone Parisian, is hard to paper over, even with the flimsy in-film excuse that the Germans in Morocco won’t notice. The cover makes no sense, causing you to wonder just how effective these spies really are.

Their lack of chemistry, and a cringe-worthy CGI take of the infamous Titanic car sex scene, certainly hampers the believability of a rather quick shift from the pair playing lovers to actually falling in love.

Penned by Locke and Dirty Pretty Things writer Steven Knight, Allied doesn’t spend nearly enough time in action mode, instead diverting into a soggy middle as Mariane and Max settle in Blitz-ravaged London to play happy families for real. A baby daughter follows soon after, courtesy of another of Zemeckis’ head-scratching computer sequences when nurses, for no apparent logical reason, haul Marianne mid-birth into the street during a furious dogfight in the sky, rather than say, retreat to the presumably far-safer hospital basement?

Bliss is short-lived, as Allied tilts into a slow-burn thriller as the audience, and Max, begin to doubt Marianne’s allegiance. Jared Harris, as commanding officer Frank Heslop, is forced, grimly to alert him to a major intelligence operation challenging her credentials.

For her part, Cotillard carries the emotional heart of the film even as her character remains oblivious to the top-down investigation. Pitt never truly sells the anguish of his conflicted emotions until the very end, though he does get a nice Bourne-like moment of crisis in the Casablanca sequence when he fear’s he’s been made by a Nazi officer.

Despite all the silliness, including a questionably cool bananas, given the period, lesbian sub-plot involving Lizzy Caplan that gets scant attention anyway, there’s a lot to enjoy in the moment even if this handsomely shot, though over-augmented film is an ultimately forgettable affair.

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords