It’s appropriate that Allied is here to cap off 2016, because much like 2016, Allied also featured Nazis.
Unfortunately, less prominently than 2016. Oops
DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
PRODUCER: Graham King, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis
WRITER: Steven Knight
GENRE: Romantic Spy Thriller
INITIAL RELEASE: November 9, 2016
RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes
STARRING: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Matthew Goode, Lizzy Caplan, Anotn Lesser, August Diehl, Camille Cotton, Charlotte Hope, Marion Bailey, Simon McBurney, Daniel Betts, Thierry Fremont
Well, December’s coming to a close, which also means that awards season must be almost upon this. This is, of course, the time of year where we become inundated with what we in the business of dangerously under qualified critics call “Oscar Bait” movies- not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but you can spot them coming from a mile away.
Now, on a completely unrelated, topic, let’s review Allied!
Allied takes place during WWII, and follows spies Max Vatan (Pitt) and Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard), whom pose as husband and wife to assassinate a Nazi ambassador in Casablanca. Of course, the two fall in love and get married for realz, and everything’s peachy…until Max learns that his wife is suspected of being a German spy.
Allied is for the most part a fine film. The film’s editing is strong, maintaining a solid pace and slow-burn building of tension as Max struggles to find the truth about his wife, and there’s some nice cinematography to behold. Save for its dips into some stale and melodramatic choices, it’s a technically excellent film. Indeed, the first act of the film in Casablanca is very strong, and serves as a great opening. In fact, I would go as far as to say that whole opening act of the film probably should have been the whole movie. Given how dramatically the plot shifts following Casablanca, it might as well have been a different movie…and it probably would have been a better one than Allied turned out to be.
Really, Allied’s biggest problems have nothing to do with what it does, more so what it doesn’t do, which is anything exciting or remotely ambitious. Allied is as traditional as this kind of film can get, with very little in the way of any surprises or any flairs of inspiration. The story itself being somewhat stale is one thing, but the plotting of that story is disappointingly straightforward and was surprisingly lacking in any significant twists or turns as well, which only compounds how familiar the whole thing feels. Things start feeling entirely too predictable entirely too soon, and while the excellent pacing kept me from falling into boredom, I was still pretty underwhelmed when it was all said and done.
These feelings might have been mitigated somewhat were the relationship between Max and Marianne compelling in its own right, but unfortunately the script seems to fall flat in this department too. Max is a thoroughly dull typical stoic military man, with Pitt’s portrayal doing little to alleviate this (I’ll get to that later). Marianne was far more intriguing, though her character is given next to nothing to do, so that intrigue is thoroughly squandered. The exploration of Max and Marianne’s relationship is also quite one-sided, I guess out of necessity to maintain suspense about Marianne’s allegiances. The lack of the decent exploration of Max and Marianne’s relationship and lack of interplay and conflict between them results in a narrative that just feels uneven. And remember those unfortunate dips into needless melodrama that I previously mentioned? Well unfortunately, most of them are at what should be emotional climaxes that really make Max and Marianne’s relationship meaningful- but the needless melodrama at these moments just makes them feel slightly absurd instead. For a film where love is at its core, Allied doesn’t do nearly much as it should to sell you on the love between Max and Marianne.
The other glaring issue with Allied was Brad Pitt as Max. I’ve never really had a problem with Brad Pitt before, but I found his performance in Allied to be exceedingly distracting. Given that the rest of the cast does quite well, I’m less inclined to point fingers at the direction, and more just at Pitt’ performance. Pitt’s performance seems to be trying for “stoic with an underlying bubbling emotion”, but he just seems to lack the expressive range to convincingly pull that off. Free of nuance, Pitt’s performance just comes across as cold and lifeless, and the attempts at subtle emotion really don’t come through in his performance at all. And for a film that’s so heavily built around a central relationship between two characters, Pitt and Cotillard don’t really seem to have all that much on-screen chemistry, and their interactions on-screen come off as too affected and insincere.
Now, given how much time I just spent whinging about it, it might seem like I thought Allied was a bit crap: with that said, I really need to stress that’s it’s really not. It is a perfectly adequate film, eminently watchable by most standards. But its lack of something truly inspired constantly holds it back from something more. Being traditional isn’t always a bad thing, provided you can bring something fresh and interesting along for the ride (see La La Land for proof of that), but Allied brings so little else to the table, that it just comes off stale and dated.
Allied is a “just good” movie in the truest sense of that phrase: a film that seems to just wander from one beat to the next beat in a competent, but very uninspired fashion. Like I said, a very watchable film- in that its technical strengths make it comfortable and unchallenging. And hey, if that’s all you’re after, Allied will service that desire just fine. But don’t go in expecting anything truly memorable or unique from this one.