I thoroughly enjoyed The Walk (which is Robert Zemeckis’ last film) because it was unapologetically fun and viscerally thrilling. Many other critics, however, came out of it longing for the restraint and relative subtlety of others of his films, such as Cast Away and Flight.
My main problem with Allied, Zemeckis’ WWII thriller, is that here he seems trapped between subtlety and spectacle. Ultimately, he goes a bit more in the direction of the latter, which somewhat tarnishes an otherwise very mature picture.
That’s not to say I wasn’t on the edge of my seat almost all the way through it. There were times I felt like I was holding onto my armrests for dear life, which is difficult to do to a horror aficionado like myself. So kudos to Zemeckis are definitely in order for crafting a handsome and incredibly tense mystery. I’m just not so sure I’ll remember much of it.
We begin as international spy Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) parachutes into the deserts of Morocco. Once in Casablanca, he meets his ‘wife,’ fellow spy Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), and they quickly return to her lodgings to give the illusion they’ve been missing each other.
Even in the first half-hour, when the couple isn’t actually a couple yet, Pitt and Cotillard have electric chemistry. This proves a vital saving grace to a film whose tense and tender first act gives way to bouts of hokey, elided exposition before getting back on track.
Once they’re married with a child and somewhat settled in London, Max is called into the War Office for what he assumes will be a promotion. There, he is told that Marianne may be not an agent for the allies, but a German spy.
He is given 72 hours before his superiors can get concrete assurances from their intelligence officers. If their inclinations are proven correct, he will have to execute his wife.
In that 72-hour span, Max decides to take matters into his own hands and attempts to investigate his wife’s past in sequences that are as thrilling and intense as any of the year’s best entertainments.
When all is revealed, however, I couldn’t help feeling a little shortchanged. The movie’s tone certainly doesn’t return to its hokey early middle, but it doesn’t quite satisfy, either. I’m honestly confused as to why Zemeckis has kept most of his recent films to just two hours. Allied could have used more running time, and it certainly earned my undivided attention.
But apart from all that, Allied seems almost like Zemeckis’ final repudiation of his motion-capture animation days. There was a long, grueling period where he seemed to have written off making films for adults altogether. So it is truly a joy to have his unique perspective return to our screens so frequently with such good stories again.
He also benefits from his fantastic lead actors, especially Marion Cotillard. I think it’s too crowded of a year for this film to really make a significant dent in the awards season, but Cotillard’s performance will and should attract a lot of chatter for the next few months. She’s utterly alluring while being quite distant and cruel at times.
I do recommend Allied more highly than my rating might suggest. If you pay matinee prices for it, you won’t be disappointed at all. It’s exciting and tense in all the right places and in all the right ways.
Allied = 3/5
‘Allied’ is rated R for violence, some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use.