Allied is directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as spies in a World War II romantic drama. It features Jared Harris, Simon McBurney and Lizzy Caplan in minor supporting parts but without question this movie belongs to Pitt and Cotillard. Without getting into spoilers, there are a few points I want to touch on.
First, this is a homage heavy piece to the more stylish noir films of the 1940s, especially giving numerous references back to the Bogart/Bergman classic Casablanca. Not only does the first act happen mostly in the Vichhy-controlled North African city of Casablanca in 1942, but even the song La Marseillaise featured in a pivotal scene in Casablanca plays its own pivotal role late in this movie. With the stylish set pieces, dapper suits and beautiful dresses, you almost expect Bogart, Bergman or Claude Rains to walk in frame at any moment. Written by Steven Knight, who wrote and directed the brilliant one-man performance piece, Locke with Tom Hardy, he’s clearly striving to re-create the romantic drama which the Warner Brothers of old cranked out on an almost assembly line basis. When Casablanca and movies like it were being produced back in the early 1940s, no one particularly thought they were making anything special. Positive reviews and a building audience popularity over the years have been what’s made it a classic.
Second, it really bugs me when I’m watching a movie and there are contrivances and conditions set for the characters that force the plot to go in certain directions but which you know are not at all how things would be handled in real life. In a fantasy or sci-fi movie where it’s a sort of anything-goes atmosphere, that’s one thing. But when the movie is a dramatic period piece which is playing heavy with facts and real-life struggles, it makes the suspension of disbelief that much more important. I don’t want to be sitting in the movie going “Wait a minute, no one would do that” or “No, that doesn’t ring true at all. They’d handle that totally differently” especially when it’s a crucial plot element that changes the entire course of the film. Yet about half-way through this movie, that’s exactly what happens. I did not like that.
But homages and plot aside, with Allied, the elements are all here to have done something good but the sum is not greater than its parts. There’s good cinematography, costumes, sets and production values throughout. This is a Zemeckis film, the director who has made his name with effects-laden adventures such as the old Back to the Future trilogy, A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey and more recently, Flight and The Walk, so there’s some CGI and it’s mostly competent except for a few places when it’s not and then it’s just distracting. Overall, the acting is fine, especially Marion Cotillard who is definitely giving it her all, but Brad Pitt comes off stiff and distracted most of the time. That’s a real shame, because this movie needed him to bring his A-game to make it work. It’s a romantic drama with either him or Cotillard or both of them on screen about 96% of the screen time, so if they aren’t making it happen, the movie isn’t happening. I don’t think this kind of movie is Brad Pitt’s strong point as an actor. I’ve never thought he was a bad actor, per se, but his style is much better suited to action/adventure films where he can show off his physical prowess such as in Troy or Fury, banter and throw out wise-cracks such as Ocean’s 11 or play it over the top such as Inglorious Basterds or Snatch. When he tries to something more serious or measured, he’s like Tom Cruise – he needs a really good director to have a chance of bringing out a really good performance. That’s not what happens here.
And I think that’s how I have to describe Allied. It’s a movie that is almost happening, but not quite. Everything in it is not quite there, all the way up to the ending which again I won’t spoil but which leaves you feeling a bit stilted and unsatisfied. You know you’re supposed to feel a certain way, that the movie has presented you with a series of events and emotional impacts which are leading you along a path that is supposed to result in certain things, but that’s not really what it ends up delivering. It’s not any one thing in particular that you can look back on and blame, except maybe Pitt’s poor performance, but the parts of this film don’t come together to form a satisfying whole. Given how much work was clearly done by its cast and crew, that’s a real bummer.
Now maybe I’m being overly critical but these are just my immediate thoughts after seeing it. If you like old style films that romanticize by-gone eras, if you like romance amidst the chaos and conflict of war and the drama of circumstances that force hard choices on the people caught up in them, then this movie might be right up your alley. It certainly tries to deliver on all those things and I’m sure for some people it’s going to work. I can’t say it worked on me though, and I was in there pitching all the way to the last scene.
All things considered, I have to give Allied a rating of Meh. From what I’ve seen of other reviews, it’s a bit of a mixed bag with this one, so I know there will be different reactions. Odds are this one is going to not make anyone’s classics list or be remembered for much a year or two from now. But you let me know in the comments what you think, as I’m definitely interested in your feedback on this film and your reactions to it. If you haven’t yet subscribed to my channel, go ahead and hit that subscribe button now. Thanks for watching.