Allied is a term you don’t hear very often these days. While there are plenty of allies, or alliances, it is quite likely that when you hear the term ‘allied’ you will most likely think of a moving van company, or your thoughts will stray back to the WWII era.
Which is exactly where director Robert Zemeckis and screenplay author Stephen Knight have taken us in the brand new film Allied. The film has Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as the leads. Pitt plays a Canadian called Max Vatan who is on loan to the British Royal Air Force, and Cotillard is a Frenchwoman called Marianne Beauséjour, who is in the French Resistance to be accurate.
We find both of them in Casablanca. Morocco, a then French colony under the control of the occupying Germans. It is 1942. Pitt, as Vatan,
parachutes in, landing in the desert, while Cotillard, is already up and running, as a smart and desirable member of the Casablanca high society. Which said another way means that she is hobnobbing with the German High Command in Morocco.
Vatan is picked up on a road that leads back to Casablanca. He’s given a suitcase which is filled with all the requisites – you know – passport, Letters of transit, cash, and of course weapons. His driver gives Vatan the intel just as he’s about to be dropped off at the tres chic nightclub, called The Rivoli, in Casablanca. Your wife will be in a purple dress. Look for the hummingbird.
And there she is. You can see the hummingbird’s wing at the bottom of the photo above. This is exactly what Vatan saw. Max is going to be passed off as Marianne’s husband who after many months in Paris is now able to join his wife in Casablanca.
So the tale is now in motion. There’s some concerns about Vatan’s French accent, (in the film he’s Canadian after all, but his ‘wife’ thinks he sounds like he’s from Quebec rather than Paris) and some other hurdles will come their way – but hopefully, they will be able to complete their assignment which is to assassinate the German ambassador.
Now that seems a fine set up for the movie. But the problem is that this part is only the first half of the movie. There’s a second half and almost all of that takes place in London and the some suburbs called Hampstead and Hampstead Heath.
While the first half is about the mission it is also about Pitt and Cotillard’s characters a) getting to know one another, 2) getting to care for each other, and 3) falling in love. It’s near perfection. Every box has been checked and every mark was hit. Exotic location = Yes. Spies and espionage – Yes. Action – Of course. And the love-story part.
Pitt and Cotillard get to wear the most beautiful clothes imaginable. Pitt? You’d never know he is 50 in real years. In the film he doesn’t look a day over 38. I’ve been a fan of Cotillard for some time, and in this film they certainly didn’t skimp on her costumes. Breathtaking is a word that comes to mind.
But the second half of the film seems more than a bit dimmer in terms of feelings. I think at this point I’ll bring in the trailer so you can get a sense of what I am leading up to.
Given the nature of Pitt/Vatan’s second assignment, we’re going to watch initially as the happy couple enjoys domestic bliss including their child being born in the middle of a German air raid. But the locale isn’t exotic and they live in a standard sized British apartment for a while before the couple is split up (not in that sense) but because Pitt has to do what he can to prove his superiors wrong.
He flies over to Dieppe in the Normandy region to interview a convalescing soldier who worked with Beauséjour. Matthew Goode has this role but you won’t recognize him. Then Pitt has to go to France again to look up a member of the French Resistance. And the clock is ticking.
As Pitt’s Commander (played by Jared Harris) and Simon McBurney as head of the V-Section state – In 72 hours we’ll know for sure.
But what this means in terms of advancing the plot is that Pitt and Cotillard have far less time on-screen together. I think the film suffers for it. The separation, the fact that Pitt mans a desk rather than a fighter plane, but mostly because instead of passion and heat we are set in place to watch domestic life.
They do go to great lengths to show that life in wartime is quite different than life in peace. People are freer or wilder, and that’s because they never know if a German bomb will penetrate their rooftops on any given night.
But Zemeckis and Knight can only run just so far in this direction. Pitt and Cotillard are now raising a child,
or having a party in their cramped apartment. While in the first half there was not only the mission and the intrigue but also scenes like making love in a small car as a North African sandstorm swirled around them.
Basically I’m saying that this film is actually two films and the second one is far from the standard set by the first one. I will also state that the film will disappoint you. I expected more. I did get a well made, well crafted bit of cinema, but this is not going to be a film to remember and savor your whole life.
I’ve seen the Michael Curtiz directed 1942 classic Casablanca, with Bogart and Bergman, and Allied, despite many references or comparisons is not in the same league. Recommended, with reservations but rated at just three-point five.