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'Allied' Film Review: Wartime drama recalls Hollywood's golden age

November 23, 2016Ben MK

Best known for such movies as the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forrest Gump, Robert Zemeckis is a director who isn't afraid to push the boundaries of the medium. Now, Zemeckis is going back to the time frame of the Second World War with the part espionage-thriller, part period-romance Allied, a film very much in the vein of classic Hollywood dramas.

The year is 1942, and Brad Pitt plays Wing Commander Max Vatan, a British Special Operations Executive pilot who parachutes straight into the heart of French Morocco. His assignment: to assassinate Germany's ambassador. But to do so, he'll need the help of Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), an undercover agent for the French Resistance. Posing as husband and wife, Max and Marianne set about their duties. What they don't count on is falling in love, and, one year later, the couple find themselves married for real and living in London with their infant daughter.

Things appear good for Max and Marianne, for despite the ever-present threat of air raids over London, they seem to be the picture of marital perfection, with Max even up for a promotion at the SOE's most top-secret division. Their domestic bliss is shattered, however, when Marianne is accused of being a German spy, sending Max on a harrowing mission to clear his wife's name. Should he fail to do so, his superiors have given him strict orders to execute her himself; and should he fail to do that, they won't hesitate to charge him with treason as well.

That essentially sums up the plot of Allied, which, on paper, reads almost like a wartime version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. On the screen, though, the outcome is decidedly more sedate, with writer Steven Knight's script placing a far greater emphasis on meticulously-paced drama than it does on thrills. In fact, aside from the fiery culmination of Max and Marianne's adventure in Morocco, the only other action sequence to speak of is a brief scene in which Max takes on a tank full of German soldiers outside a jail in Dieppe, armed with only his wits, a grenade and a pistol.

If you're looking for good old-fashioned movie star wattage, however, you've come to the right place, as Pitt and Cotillard exude a charismatic glow reminiscent of the power couples of Hollywood's golden age. It's something that's plain to see, whether their characters are sharing a romantic sunrise on a sand dune or doing something as ordinary as sitting down to breakfast. Still, the nostalgia that Allied evokes can only carry it so far, and, eventually, the film begins to wane, rescued only by the emotional gut-punch packed by its tearful and tense finale.

All that said, Allied's greatest strength is most definitely the way it functions as a throwback to the sweeping dramas of Hollywood's yesteryear. And in spite of the movie's drawbacks, watching Pitt and Cotillard bat eyes at each other amid the impeccable recreations of war-torn London and sand-swept Casablanca is worth the price of admission. Add to that the film's stellar supporting cast — which includes Lizzy Caplan, Jared Harris, Simon McBurney and Matthew Goode — and it's no overstatement to say that they just don't make movies like this anymore.

Allied releases November 23rd, 2016 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for violence, some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 4 Mins.

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