WWII looked like it was a pretty wild time.
It’s WWII and intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) literally gets dropped in North Africa where he is stationed for his next mission. Working alongside French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), Max tries to finish this deadly mission behind enemy lines still alive, which also means that he’ll have to fend-off any sort of sexual feelings for his fellow spy. However, that doesn’t quite happen; somehow, the two end up getting together, sharing relations and now, a whole lot more serious than either of them ever expected in the first place. Now, reunited in London, their relationship is put to the ultimate test when it comes out that Max may not know everything there is to know about Marianne and is pressured to choose love, or his country.
Believe it or not, Allied is directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Stephen Knight. I say, “believe it or not”, because it’s simply an odd combination; Knight is known for his dark, sometimes heavy tales of violence and betrayal, where Zemeckis, well, isn’t. Hell, if anything, he’s been more well-known as of late for letting CGI and today’s technology get the best of him a tad too much. Sure, for a director who has been working for as long as he has, to dabble so much with CGI, special effects, and motion-capture, is admirable, but it doesn’t always mean that his movies, in and of themselves, are all that terrific.
Which is why Allied still isn’t terrific, but also may be the right step in the direction for Zemeckis to come back down to Earth and to make solid, well-told and simple human tales, without so much computer-magic being used.
What works best about Allied is that Zemeckis approaches the material in a very slow, but melodic and dialed-down manner that helps allow for the story to develop over time, without just jumping to conclusions, or twists, or turns automatically. It’s actually a very simple and straightforward plot, and because of that, the movie doesn’t necessarily aim for the stars and try to be anything it’s not; it’s an old school, old-fashioned and above all else, relatively easygoing spy flick taking place in London during WWII. Knight deserves credit, too, for not making his story seem more important or overblown than it actually is – it’s literally a tale of two spies, falling in love, doing spy-stuff and possibly coming apart at the seams. What else is there to know?
That’s why Allied, above all else, is a refresher, especially in today’s Oscar-bait world we are currently going to be living in for the next month or so. It may flirt with the idea of being a really heavy, powerfully emotional tale about love, sex, betrayal, war, violence and death, but really, is just another spy movie in which someone has to be killed, or not. Zemeckis does clearly want for the story to be a romantic-tale, but none of that quite registers; Pitt and Cotillard have good chemistry, but the movie needed to focus more on them actually falling head-over-heels for one another, then just showing them having hot, sometimes sweaty sex and automatically assuming that that means they’re “in love”. It doesn’t quite work that way in real life, nor does it work here, which is why Zemeckis and Knight’s small, but noticeable attempts to try and make it at that, don’t really register.
If anything, we really just want to see spies be spies, in WWII, of all times and places.
And that aspect of the movie definitely works. Allied has a slightly different take on WWII in that it wasn’t just a terrible time to live in, what with the constant death and heartbreak occurring almost everywhere you looked, but also a time in which people just had to live through. Because of this, we get a small, but interesting look at the lives that these characters create for themselves during this time, where it isn’t just sadness, tears and constant depression, but some small, fleeting moments of happiness. We see people have sex, drink, have picnics, go to bars, do cocaine, and yes, have even more sex. Why does any of this matter? I’m not quite sure, honestly, but it shows that maybe that there was more to the times of WWII than most of us care to know or focus on.
Still though, at Allied‘s heart, it’s a tale of two spies, falling in and out of love, over a certain amount of time. And because the movie can be so intimate and focused, the performances can also seem so raw and gritty, which helps because Pitt and Cotillard are two of our finest actors working today and give it their all. Pitt gets the most spotlight and focus out of the two, with his character having to grappled with a lot of upsetting, conflicting emotions over a period of time and making us feel more for this person. We don’t really get to know much more about him other than that he’s a spy, is from Canada, and can speak French, but that’s sort of fine – the fact that he has no life, other than his spy one, actually makes his tale a whole lot sadder.
Same goes for Cotillard’s Marianne, who is a lot more mysterious and interesting to watch, only because the point of the movie is that we don’t know each and everything there is to know about her. Cotillard has a lot of fun here as the sexy and seductive spy that may be up to no good, but may also just be playing a role to get the mission done – we never know each and everything there is to know about her, and because of this, it’s hard to not want to see more of her. Had the movie been a lot less focused on its plot and a whole lot more attentive to its character, we probably would have gotten more of Cotillard, doing what she does best, but I guess this is what we get.
It’s not bad, just could have been a whole lot better, obviously.
Consensus: With enough focus placed on its two great leads, Allied gets by on being a compelling spy tale that could have been far better, but keeps its aim so low that it’s fine enough as is.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire