As a self-professed cinephile, I try to be a student of film. Admittedly I’m not as well versed in the finer points of film history and avant-garde genres as some others, though I pride myself on at least knowing the masters, from Kurosawa to Kubrick. Moreover, I try to view the classics such as Citizen Kane and Casablanca (I enjoyed the latter more than the former). The films of yesteryear give a glimpse of the glamor of Old Hollywood, replete with dashing leading men and captivating leading women. Allied harkens back to that golden era in its stars Brad Pitt (The Big Short) and Marion Cotillard (Macbeth), two spies who fall in love amidst the danger and turmoil of World War II.
Pitt stars as intelligence officer Max Vatan, whom we first meet parachuting into the middle of the Moroccan desert. Cotillard features as spy Marianne Beausejour, Max’s mission cohort who has been laying the groundwork for his arrival. Posing as husband and wife although only having just met, I was enchanted by the delicate dance between characters, Marianne taking the lead as a compliant Max deferred to her expertise. Having to play the role of lovers (of course) leads to real feelings between Max and Marianne, but their focus is razor sharp – and in one scene Max reminds the audience that even though he is maintaining an outward charade, he cannot afford to let his guard down, as any momentary lapse in judgment could not only cost him the mission, but their lives.
It’s tempting to glance at this film and compare it to Mr. & Mrs. Smith, another film in which Pitt and his female co-star are featured as married spies. That would be a mistake, as any comparisons are superficial. Allied is a far superior film, though to be fair both movies have their place. Not purely a love story, Allied should appeal to an array of viewers with its air of romance and intrigue. Writer Steven Knight (Burnt, Locke) punctuates the story with suspense and danger, equal parts action and love story. Pitt and Cotillard’s chemistry is undeniable, both organic and intentional. Pitt hasn’t been this magnetic on screen in years, and veteran director Robert Zemeckis (Flight) depicted every detail beautifully, effectively capturing every passionate, dangerous moment between the two sizzling leads. In one unforgettable scene Max and Marianne make love in the middle of a sandstorm, the swirling sands rocking their car to and fro as they reach their pique within.
I can’t find a single fault with Allied, a well-acted, well-written, beautiful film with something for everyone: action, suspense, love, and mystery. Stylish and atmospheric, it was reminiscent of a bygone era but will undoubtedly appeal to contemporary audiences. This was one of the better films I’ve seen in 2016. Grade: A.