In 1942, Max (Brad Pitt), a French-Canadian spy based in London but working in North Africa, falls in love with French Resistance agent Marianne (Marion Cotillard), after a mission together in Casablanca. He marries her and takes her to London, continuing his secret work while she takes care of their new baby girl. When Max is alerted by his superiors that Marianne is possibly a Nazi spy, he is ordered to test her loyalties.
Review by Louise Keller:
Love and betrayal are the themes of this sweeping love story in which star power and intrigue keep us on tenterhooks throughout. It's a meticulous production that ticks every box, beginning with a superb screenplay by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Locke) in which the characters are established and beautifully developed. We become engrossed in the 1942 wartime reality when credibility and credentials are a matter of life and death. In many ways it is an old fashioned story - like Casablanca (1942), for reasons beyond its exotic initial setting, where Max, the Quebec spy (Brad Pitt) and Marianne, the French Resistance agent (Marion Cotillard) first meet and fall in love.
Director Robert Zemeckis (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forest Gump, Cast Away) brings all the elements together with the artistry of an orchestra conductor as he involves us in emotional crescendos of the human story in which passion is both physical and ethical.
With great economy, the scene is set when Max parachutes into the vast French Moroccan desert as his charade as Marianne's husband begins in preparation for their dangerous mission. They seem to easily slip into the world of pretense. Marianne's mantra? 'I keep the emotions real: that's how it works.' As for Max, he dreams of a ranch at home on the prairie. It is a glamorous world of generous proportions, where the clothes are slinky and elegant - on the dance floor, at target practice or on the rooftop at night, where husbands sleep after making love to their wives. Everyone is constantly being observed and tested; the details matter.
There are sparks galore between Pitt and Cotillard. Watch for the erotic scene when they make love for the first time in a parked car in the middle of a violent sandstorm. This first section of the film is filled with wonderful scenes, like the one in which an invitation to a party thrown by the German Ambassador is sought and the reception where the nature of their mission is finally learned.
The screenplay is split into three parts: the mission in Casablanca, domestic bliss in London and the final act, when everything is questioned. The focus is always on the relationship. The tension is palpable as Max tries to keep some semblance of normality as scrutiny begins on his wife in the final chapter, when everything hangs in the balance. Perspectives change and we question everything that we have previously accepted.
To its detriment, we feel let down by the climactic scene, which feels rushed. This lessens the impact created by the intense and powerful lead up. If this had been developed a little further, the emotional effect would have been overwhelming. That aside, the film dazzles by its charismatic, beautiful stars, on whose every word and action we cling.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
You would be forgiven for thinking that Allied is a war movie, and you would be pleasantly surprised that it is much more than that. Yes, it is set in the middle of WWII and starts in Casablanca (the title of another romance for grown ups set in the war), but Englishman Steven Knight's excellent screenplay is more concerned with the battle of hearts and loyalties than the one on the ground. There is wartime gunfire too, though, and it plays a crucial role, but not as in a movie about the war. This is about people, characters who have to make choices that are forced upon them - in this case by war.
The film is beautifully nursed along its trajectory by director Robert Zemeckis (he won the Oscar for Forrest Gump, 1994); careful to build the tension and hold back the secrets that provide the emotional payoff in the film's resolution. The characters are established as soon as they meet for the first time, when they are spies, role playing as husband and wife in expat-filled Casablanca, a swirling cous cous of spies, enemies and the Germans.
We follow them as their romance quietly ignites under the Moroccan night skies on the roof of their home and later as they start their new life together. The story sets up the all-important context before the shock revelation that Max's superiors believe his wife to be a spy for the Germans. That is one of the most powerful scenes in the film.
There is just one false note; a shot of their baby Anna's things with a sign that reads 'Anna's safe space'. There was no such phrase used by parents in 1942 Europe.
Zemeckis works with a terrific cast, not only the outstanding leads - both making us care deeply about them - but also the supports, such as Jared Harris as Frank, one of Max's senior officers, and Simon McBurney as another, in a powerful cameo. Others also play crucial roles, from Matthew Goode (another strong cameo) as a badly wounded pilot, and Sally Mesham as one of Max's good friends.
Superbly designed and filmed, Allied is a film for grown ups that appreciate drama which reflects life that is not seen through a fake cinematic filter.
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CAST: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode, Raffey Cassidy, Charlotte Hope, Jared Harris
PRODUCER: Graham King, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis
DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
SCRIPT: Steven Knight
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Don Burgess
EDITOR: Mick Audsley, Jeremiah O'Driscoll
MUSIC: Alan Silvestri
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gary Freeman
RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2016