Review: Robert Zemeckis’ new espionage romance drama, Allied, somehow soars before it even flies. Overshadowed in the heat of 2016’s most controversial celebrity divorce news between Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Allied gets all the attention with accusation that leading actress, Marion Cotillard, is Pitt’s mistress. Given the resemblances of Mr. & Mrs. Smith issue in background, coverage to Pitt-Cotillard involvement and talks about Allied is up on the sky… but not until it finally flies.
When it flies, it ejects a seemingly younger and more Quebecois Brad Pitt as Max Vatan parachuted to midst of desert. He soon joins in a lethal behind-enemy-line mission with a French femme-fatale agent, Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) in the barren land of exotic French-occupied Casablanca, Morocco. Posing as a husband and wife, the feat spends too much and too intense time in this assasination mission that something more profound embarks from within them.
Allied is a non-traditional three-act narrative. Steve Knight’s script sets clear distinction between each part with important key-points and conflicts. What once starts as a tribute to Humphrey Bogart’s Casablanca escalates quickly into a rushed espionage romance—clinched in one of the best scenes, the showdon at Consulate (not to ignore the desert storm sex)—then turns into a double-crosses family affair during the second act.
The first act, although a little muddled and rushy, is in fact the strongest part as it deconstructs the nature of the mission and constructs the emotional-building between the allied agents. Allied presents a more thoughtful persona in Pitt and a more volatile and inclined one in Cotillard. Separately, both actors emanates real charms, which almost become the film’s ace of spade; however, their chemistry as an ‘allied’ force is underpowered. On paper, both performances should’ve been a starstruck one; but, instead, the chemistry is bland and, at some points, constraint.
I believe Pitt-Cotillard’s chemistry could’ve made the final results different if only Steve Knight’s script isn’t off the track. Mid act of Allied, now set in London, practically abandons Cotillard’s character in the background as it focuses more on Max’s collateral conflicts as a result of a twist, in which Marianne is suspected as German spy. Allied could’ve followed the narrative building, focusing on internal relationship as projected in the first act; however, it instead focuses on Max’s doubt and quest to seek truth while it neglects Marianne’s existence.
On the run, Allied looks more like a detective story when the plot gives more portion to Max as he seeks for truth. However, the motivations is somehow conflicting between finding the real truth behind Marianne Beausejour or simply proving that she’s innocent of all suspicion. Result is, series of out-of-place narrative points appear, e.g., Matthew Goode’s cameo and operation Dieppe.
The narrative might be downright disappointing, yet, Zemeckis still manages to bring out his craftsmanship in filmmaking. Compared to his latest filmography (say, The Walk), Allied seems more conventional (although it effectively uses CGI to add more dramatic effect and… younger Brad Pitt) but, still, manages to showcase Zemeckis’ tour-de-force in crafting details. The camera movement is dynamic, capturing each moment at its precise elegy—especially during the desert scene and most scenes in Casablanca. Zemeckis’ attention to details and direct references to Casablanca (incl. ‘La Marseillaise’ reference) creates real an elegant atmosphere of retro-Hollywood’s charm.
At a time, Allied is quite convincing as an espionage romance set during war time. It even manages to have sweetest and sentimental moments, showcasing Pitt and Cotillard’s charms separately (not as a unity, even as a partner as people might accuse). However, as it progresses, the charm diminishes and culminates in the underwhelming third act. The emotional complexity isn’t culminating; and the resolution isn’t elegant. If not for the heartwrenching ending, it might just be a failed attempt to tell an elegant love story.
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