Paramount 124 Minutes R
It’s fitting that the director of Back to the Future also made this movie. Robert Zemeckis has time-travelled back to the days of WW II spy thrillers while using today’s technology. He’s filled that CGI tool-box to bring an authentic looking war-time Casablanca to life.
Brad Pitt is also a recipient of Zemeckis’ tech tinkering. Any hints of his real age (52) are magically wiped away to give him the youthful visage of Canadian airman, Max Vatan. Even though we know we’re looking at a processed image, it works because of the chemistry between Pitt and vibrant Marion Cotillard, who plays his undercover partner, Marianne Beauséjour. They are paired as husband and wife to assassinate the Nazi Ambassador to Morocco in 1942. She is gorgeous and comparisons to the original Bogart/Bergman Casablanca are inevitable.
Just like the old-time war spy movies. There’s the apprehension of being uncovered and killed by the Nazis at any moment. Writer Steven Knight (Locke) did well in creating alias characters for Max and Marianne who then have to keep their stories straight under the intense scrutiny of the Nazis. We enjoyed the interchanges where we’re watching Pitt and Cotillard acting a role within another role. Max and Marianne’s lives depend on making everyone believe they are married and deeply in love, which, of course, becomes reality once they survive the mission. You’ll also see perhaps the sexiest sandstorm ever put on film!
The action moves to London where the major portion of the movie takes place. Max and Marianne have made a home and try to live as normally as possible despite bombs raining down on them from the German Blitzkrieg. But the portrayal was a bit over the top when Marianne gives birth in the middle of the street on a hospital gurney during a bombing raid! However, realizing that no Londoner ever knew if the next breath would be his last, the absurdity of that scene seems to fit. Just as the house party with the frantic music, binge drinking and sex orgies makes us keenly aware of the need to grab all the life you can.
When Max is called into his boss’ office (Jared Harris) he can’t believe accusations made against his wife. British Intelligence has found a leak feeding information to the German from an agent located in London. Max’s orders are made clear. If his wife is the leak, it’s his job to kill her. Sound more than a little like Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Max sets out to prove his superiors are wrong. He even flies behind enemy lines in France to try to track down the truth. This is the weaker element in the movie. We understand that Max is blinded by love, but doing so, he becomes unglued and takes foolish risks.
Even though the script becomes melodramatic at the conclusion, the relationship between Max and Marianne is beautifully constructed. Robert Zemeckis knows how to spin a tale and his talents are evident here. This is a nostalgic throwback to classic love/war/thriller stories. Even the look of the scenery (whether real or created through CGI) has an air of authenticity. There is a moment when a damaged German bomber is headed right for Max and Marianne’s house. That moment of life or death is as close as we hope any of us come to knowing war. Those are the times when Allied shines.
Despite the generous use of modern special effects this is a nostalgic movie. So if you’re a fan of World War II vintage thrillers like 13 Rue Madeleine (James Cagney) or They Met in the Dark (James Mason), try this one on. It won’t make you forget the original classics like Casablanca, but nice try.