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‘Allied’ (review)

allied-posterProduced by Graham King,
Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis
Written by Steven Knight
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard,
Jared Harris, Simon McBurney,
Matthew Goode, Lizzy Caplan

Robert Zemeckis Allied is a decent Nazi spy romance film that is not without its problems with pacing and story, but still has some great scenes and overall looks great.

From the dizzying ‘when is he going to touch ground’ of Brad Pitt’s opening paratrooper scene to another steamy desert sex scene, the movie sure is great to look at. With the gorgeous Marion Cotillard (Dark Knight Rises, Inception) dripping a satin sensuality and Pitt’s leading man charisma, the sexiness can blow the gasket off of an RAF Jeep.

To be honest, Allied is a bit of a slogger, resting most of the burden on pure star power.

The movie has it’s very own identity crisis, switching sides from being a romantic period piece to a Nazi-punching war flick with behind the enemy lines grenade-throwing action. Where Zemeckis and writer Steven Knight go wrong is in the focus of the thing.

Most, if not all, of the plot is revealed in the trailer, which sets ones’ expectations up for failure from the first scenes in French Morocco. Max (Pitt) is a Canadian Airman fighting for the RAF. He’s dropped into a desert reconnoiter with his inside man who gives him a weapon and a cover story, complete with fake wedding ring.

In Casablanca, he meets his cover, a beautiful Marianne (Marion Cotillard).

They play house for a week before infiltrating a Nazi dinner party and slaughtering the German Ambassador. After a tryst in the dessert after watching the sunrise, the fake couple begins to fall for each other, and conveniently decide that they shall meet in London post-mission to make their fantasy wedding a reality.

They’ve truly fallen in love.

The setup for this to fall apart is nearly too perfect, as Max and Marianne fast forward to a perfect house in North London and have their precious baby Anna. Anna was born in hospital as shells are dropping outside in The Blitz.

This is where the storytelling pushes the dramatic beats into the fantastic, though not necessarily realistic, it makes for a typical Zemeckis movie beat. Anna being born to midwives as bombs are bursting in air is a bit much.

On what is supposed to be Officer Max’s weekend off, he’s called in by his superiors for duty. Frank Heslop (Jared Harris) informs him he needs to listen to an officer from V-Section (now know as SIS or MI6), who accuses his Marianne of being a German spy, leaking information to the Hitler’s SS.

Max is obviously in disbelief as V-Section gives him marching orders to drop some misinformation into his wife’s hands and, “come around Monday, we’ll see if the fake intel shows on the reports”.

Not satisfied with his orders, he reluctantly places the clue for Marianne to find, but disobeys the order to not investigate on his own. This does lead to some of the most fun parts of the movie as Max steals a supply drop plane, runs fakes errands including a pin prick in the van to make it look as if he has given blood, and he satisfyingly blows up a tankful of Ratzis.

All the while on this fateful weekend, Marianne is planning a party for Max with the guest-list including suspicious refugees, Max’s RAF sister and her girlfriend, mixed in with Max’s command and RAF mates.

At the party, Max is dressed down for doing any investigating on his own by Heslop, but also he is acting strangely toward some of Marianne’s friends he is suspicious of.

The uneasy party is cut short when a Luftwaffe bomber buzzes the house after being shot down! What are the chances? Unfortunately, the chances were probably pretty good for the chaps back then trying to keep calm and carry on while London was being bombarded in such a raid.

Part war movie, part romance and a bit of interpersonal drama does not a great movie make, nor is this a compelling spy flick. While it is hard to criticize a beautifully shot movie from such an acclaimed director with top notch Academy Award winning talent, Allied moves along at a snails pace.

The inevitable conclusion about the spy game, as mentioned before, is revealed in most all of the previews and solicits of the movie. Chances are if someone is accused of being a Nazi spy (spoiler warning) in a movie like this, then they turn out to be one.

The movie is more romance than action but leaves a lot of boxes unchecked on both sides, taking its own concept too seriously and not showing enough ‘spy stuff’ to make this a truly great movie. It may move too slow for a history buff, it’s not British enough for an Anglophile and Americans will either love or hate that Pitt is playing a Canadian serviceman! Though, the French language comes in handy for Max in the movie.

You’ll notice I’m careful not to decry this movie as awful, my overall impression was positive, with great costumes (who doesn’t like to see a fully decked out desert version of an evil SS officer, or a German count that looks like he could be related to Grandpa Munster, and, of course, Cotillard slinking around in a way that could make you fall in love with her?) but there were expectations that weren’t quite met.

At times I would have preferred to be watching Val Kilmer in Top Secret! than be engaged with this easy to predict storyline and conclusion.

 

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