Allied – Review (*** 1/2)

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Neither the Oscar-caliber drama you want it to be nor the bust that lack of pre-release reviews and avoidance of the awards circuit seemed to suggest, Allied settles for being an entertaining, well-acted historical drama that benefits from Robert Zemeckis’ reliable directorial zeal.

The year is 1942, World War II is raging, and Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is sent undercover with French Resistance fighter named Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) to Morocco. Posing as a married couple, the two soon enough fall in love for real, before Max is informed that the British government are planning an operation to smoke out a mole, believing Marianne to be a German spy.

Allied is, for at least two-thirds of its run-time, an agreeably old-school romantic thriller, steeped superbly in the midst of WWII while evoking Hollywood’s Golden Age thanks to Pitt and Cotillard looking absolutely at home in period garb, and the sheer charming nature of their performances, driven by a surprisingly funny script.

It’s rather surprising that Paramount greenlit an $85 million version of this movie with an R-rating, because while the occasionally vulgar language and flashes of brutal violence do add a lot to the story, it’s easy to imagine a studio executive having these aspects nixed from the script because they impact the bottom line so much. Though the film looks set to be a commercial disappointment, here’s a hand to Paramount for at least taking a chance on something a little more daring.

For the most part, though, it is a little dumbfounding where all that money went; the film is relatively low on action, the CGI sequences look fairly cheap, and a lot of the locations are interiors that don’t require too much in terms of overheads. That it cost almost $20 million more than 2014’s ensemble war flick Fury is, frankly, staggering.

Back to the movie itself, it holds a rather suspenseful and water-tight narrative for some 80-or-so minutes before an avalanche of silliness sends the pic hurtling off the rails. There are a number of contrived and unconvincing sequences back-loaded into the movie which make the final reel feel somewhat at odds with the rest of the film, complete with a schmaltzy ending that almost feels studio-mandated in favour of something much more interesting.

Still, the majority of the movie is consistently compelling, and even when the script defers to melodrama and absurdity, Pitt and Cotillard still characteristically deliver, alongside a stacked supporting cast including Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode, Simon McBurney and August Diehl.

Neither as great as you want it to be nor as disappointing as you may have feared, Allied is another rock solid Zemeckis movie for the most part, and that’s totally fine.

*** 1/2

Allied is in cinemas now


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