The fact that soldiers are forced to live dual lives of contrasting peace and war, public and personal is something that cinema has been obsessed with for years. Allied is a movie that revels in dichotomies, and one major conversation emerging around it is this idea that the first half and the second half are essentially different movies. That sensation is undeniable. The first half is secret ops and sweeping romance while the latter is distinctly unglamorous espionage and high tension. Both halves have their perks and Zemekis nearly pulls everything together into a single great movie. As it stands, Allied is a good World War II picture with some great moments.
We meet Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) dropping into Nazi occupied Morocco. He casts a heroic figure walking across the sand and meets up with a handler who outfits him with papers and the details of a public meeting with his “wife.” She’s Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) and he’s never laid eyes on her. She’s been in-country for months making in-roads with players in Nazi circles She’s been talking him up and their very public “reunion” will be the first hurdle in a high stakes effort to accomplish the extremely tricky job they’ve been given. It’s a task Max gives them a 40% chance of surviving. The kind of adrenaline pumping exercise in bravery and luck that these movies are made of. Great romances are born and sacrifices are made and stands are made.
The heady circumstances turn Max and Marianne against the logic that’s made them effective in war and they fall in the kind of whirlwind love that rarely gets a chance to be tested by time. But for them, the dream of what they each might do after the war isn’t a lie they tell for comfort. No, their great lie is the idea that they can come through the things they’ve seen, unscathed, and live a quiet normal life. So, when we catch up with them in London, happy, it’s only fitting that a bomb arrives to disrupt their quiet lives. Max’s superiors tell him that Marianne has been accused of acting as a Nazi spy. His job now is to help them run a “blue dye” test to uphold or disprove the accusations. And if it turns out that Marianne is a spy, he must execute her by his own hand or be hanged for treason himself. It’s an unenviable task, and a situation that’s as far removed as possible from their exotic beginnings.
Max and Marianne’s story sweeps the viewer up like an irresistable tide. Even where it is flawed, it’s compelling and it makes for lush, satisfying viewing. Cotillard gives a typically strong performance that commands the eye and demands attention. She is this picture at its best and most seductive. Surprisingly, however, Brad Pitt’s turn reads rather cold. Historically, he fits into this era and these circumstances exceptionally well, oozing charm and weariness in equal measure. Here, he just doesn’t register with his usual warmth or empathy for large swaths of the picture.
Whatever its flaws, Allied is a vastly entertaining, abosorbing film that won’t disappoint, even if it doesn’t delight quite as much as it might have.