In a year filled with marital woes and a pending custody battle, Brad Pitt’s latest Hollywood starring role may be just what the publicist ordered. As the holiday film-going season has arrived, Pitt returns to the big screen in the wartime thriller and romance flick Allied, alongside his beautiful co-star Marion Cotillard (Inception, The Immigrant).
Set in the early 40s at the height of World War II, Pitt stars as Max Vatan, a Canadian-born British intelligence officer sent to Nazi occupied North Africa to meet French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard). Marianne has been there for weeks, establishing a cover story and awaiting his arrival. Max will pose as her husband while they are plotting to get into an invitation-only event to assassinate a German official. Despite knowing the rules and common sense against falling in love, Max and Marianne set course for a journey that will take both of them down a path of good old-fashioned intrigue as loyalties are questioned with moments of wartime confrontation thrown in for good measure.
Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) returns for his eighteenth feature film and at times, it feels as if he is channeling his suspense drama What Lies Beneath (2000). The seldom-mentioned Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer thriller worked best when leaving the viewer unsure of what was to come next. Zemeckis accomplishes that again in the latter part of Allied, a classic turn of cat and mouse with character twists that will leave you guessing. One beautifully filmed moment involves a love scene taking place in the middle of a sandstorm. Perhaps the first time for such an act on film, it is truly symbolic of the potential dangers for our two characters to enter such a romance.
Zemeckis truly captures the feel of the time period, something that is essential if you want to bring your viewers into the moment. Wartime films don’t always accomplish that, often getting sidetracked with anachronistic errors. The only plot point that almost pulled me out of the moment was the apparent lesbian relationship involving the sister of Max and another young woman. It was presented as a very open love affair that, while not illegal in 1940s London, would not have been has widely accepted as seen here. Despite this potential flaw, writer Steven Knight (Eastern Promises) presents us a very engaging film with elements of intrigue and action. And with beautiful cinematography by Don Burgess (Forest Gump, Cast Away), Allied truly brings the viewer into the time period.
The one troubling aspect of Allied is the pacing of the film. At just over two hours long, it could have benefited from some further editing in the opening segment of the film. The time spent in North Africa tends to drag longer than it should. While establishing the relationship between Max and Marianne, some elements could have been cut, getting us to London a little quicker, where the story truly begins to intensify. Despite this, Pitt and Cotillard turn in very convincing performances, helping us believe the love and passion they feel towards each other. It will surely add fuel to those tabloid romance rumors.
Allied is a perfect counter-programmer at a time theaters are filled with superheroes, aliens, wizards and space battles. Despite an ad campaign that focused too much on the action elements, it really is more of romantic spy thriller. With solid direction and a story that will leave you in suspense, it’s a great recommendation for a chilly Sunday afternoon matinee.