This minor league outing is at least entertainingly watchable, in no small part due to the high wattage luminousness of its two glamorous stars, Brand Pitt and Marion Cotillard. Veteran director Robert Zemeckis (“Castaway”, “Forrest Gump”) also does a good job, with production designer, Gary Freeman (“Maleficient”), of summoning up the terror of living in war-time England. And there’s also the couture from Joanna Johnson (“The BFG”) to add some glitz to the Blitz. The Second World War never looked this glam.
It’s a starry list of big-hitter talent in service of a staggeringly dumb story: a poor-man’s combination of “Casablanca” and “True Lies”.
Brad is a decorated Canadian intelligence officer with the unlikely name of Max Vattan, sent by the allies to German occupied Casablanca, where he is to rendezvous with a mysterious French resistance fighter, Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard). They’re to pass themselves off as a happily married Parisienne couple (and who wouldn’t want to be passed off as a married couple with either of these two?), as they plot the assassination of the German ambassador. Her close friends…the snooping neighbors…the German authorities…everyone is to be duped by his appearance (a six week holiday) and their supposed romance. From their very first tete a tete, Steven Knight (“Eastern Promises”) ensures that there’s no ambiguity about the theme of the movie: IT’S ALL ABOUT DECEPTION.
But who’s deceiving who?
After a brief period of professional distance, the imminence of death and the swirling obscurity of a sandstorm removes the “supposed” from the “romance” even as it removes their clothes…faster than you can say Brangelina. Love and London and marriage (and divorce) follow, as does the shadow of doubt. Is she all that she claims to be, or is she, as the British Secret Service suspect, a German double agent?
As if unsure where to go with that nifty conceit, Knight doubles down on the silliness in the hope that the theme of deception would carry all the way through to the audience…like a sort of meta fiction. Alas it doesn’t, and the story grows as desperate for salvation as Brad’s character; until in the end, even Alan Silvestri’s soaring romantic music (IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT DECEPTION, IT’S REALLY ABOUT LOVE!) cannot perfume the stench.
This really is a January/February type of movie, seemingly shoehorned by its high cost names into a November (Oscar month) time slot (and, financially humbled by Dwayne Johnson/Disney’s “Moana”). So…if you must go, lower your expectations to a big budget TV event type standard, leave your common sense in the foyer…and enjoy
ALLIED. Dir: Robert Zemeckis. With: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris (“The Crown”), Simon McBurney (“The Theory of Everything”). Cinematography: Don Burgess (“Flight”). Writer: Steven Knight (“Burnt”)