Over the last decade Brad Pitt has slain a lot of Nazi’s. Whether it was as Lt. Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds or Wardaddy Collier in Fury – the man has done his fair share in WWII. Now he’s back as Max Vatan in Allied – a handsome Canadian-fly boy with a penchant for undercover Nazi murderin. If Pitt keeps this run up he may have to switch wars.
Early in Allied Max embarks to Casablanca. When he arrives he must meet his wife for the mission – the beautiful French operative Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard.) Max and Marianne put up a very convincing front as husband and wife as they plot the assassination of a Nazi ambassador – set to attend a party later that month. They live together, go out on the town and fake traditional post-coital rituals to convince on-lookers they can’t keep their hands off each other.
Well eventually they can’t (I mean look at them) and the night before the assassination they consummate their fake romance (in a car, surrounded by a dust storm in the Moroccan desert at sunrise – let’s be honest we’d definitely all break.) After a successful operation Max asks Marianne to come to London with him and be his wife.
The film’s second half centers on an awfully juicy detail. After settling down in North London and having a daughter – Max (who is working for the allies in intelligence gathering) receives some news. The love of his life just might be a German spy.
Allied is directed by Robert Zemeckis – who has spent his entire career gallivanting through space, time and across the globe (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Cast Away.) He’s a special effects innovator, embracing digital animation to decent, but weirdly-almost real but not quite effect (The Polar Express, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol.) Point being, the man has a blockbuster flair but also a pension for schmaltzy melodrama. I admit I’ve fallen for it more than once and here Zemeckis best and worst impulses are on display.
He stages showy sequences – such as Marianne giving birth outside a hospital beneath Nazi hellfire reigning from the sky, to a plane crash conspicuously close to a raucous dinner party. Zemeckis can’t help himself but where it often didn’t work in his earlier film’s in Allied it feels nearly realized. His wartime London & Morocco are glossy – 50’s style pinup glossy. The artifice is palpable. But for all the showiness Zemeckis grounds it with a truly modern, adult sensibility. He doesn’t neuter the dialogue, sex or the violence – he embraces it.
This is inlarge part to Marion Cotillard’s wonderfully realized performance. Her Marianne is vibrant and beautiful but does an incredible job conveying the walls around her getting tighter by the minute. It’s even better in contrast to Pitt’s Max, who’s oddly inert for the majority of the runtime. Pitt often seems bored, just going through the motions. He’s an actor with tremendous presence and power, none of which comes across until it’s too late.
Allied is a fickle beast, all at once a soap opera with silly plot machinations and sweeping romantic gestures. But it’s also an adult melodrama that’s intermittently beautiful and so rarely seen these days. It’s familiar but a breezy movie star vehicle and sometimes that’s all we need.