Writer: Steven Knight
Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, Simon McBurney
Running time: 124mins
What’s the story: In 1942 Morocco, French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) and Canadian RAF wing commander Max Vatan (Pitt) encounter danger and passion during a mission against Nazi forces. On assignment in London they discover a new threat.
What’s the verdict: Those bemoaning the lack of decent World War 2 era romantic thrillers will find themselves shouting “Vive le fromage!” at Robert Zemeckis’ latest directorial effort.
Taking a grab bag approach to such WW2 heart-flutterers as The English Patient, Hanover Street and granddaddy of them all Casablanca, Allied’s mission statement is to administer an old school glamour makeover to current cinema.
With some modern day potty-mouth and bloody violence to attract jaded millennials who can’t quite remember if World War 2 was just a movie or actually happened.
Which is why we have Pitt’s Vatan dreamily parachuting into Morocco and heading for Casablanca itself to rendezvous with Cotillard’s beautiful French agent. He’s RAF posing as a Parisian mining executive, she’s his society wife. There is a little tension, a little flirtation, growing passion and the shadow of their impending mission looming ever larger
Lavishly mounted and exquisitely tailored though it is, Allied’s opening act is all gloss no flavour. Pitt and Cotillard attempt to pump life into Steven (Peaky Blinders) Knight’s workmanlike script, but the humour falls flat and the passion fizzles out fast.
Allowing us plenty of time to ponder why Vatan is so worried about his Parisian accent when it is the Canadian accent with which he has real difficulties.
Then, just as restlessness threatens to calcify into boredom, the movie flicks the safety catch off its Sten gun and unleashes a volley of genuine excitement and intrigue. A firefight in a high-ranking Nazi’s Moroccan villa is pitched midway between the grit of Pitt’s Fury and the camp colourfulness of his Inglourious Basterds.
Then we’re whisked to London, the war rooms of Whitehall and the falling bombs of the Blitz, to which Max and Marianne respond by making fireworks of their own in a cosy little nest egg in Hampstead.
But, their bliss is threatened when evidence of a Nazi agent working the halls of power arises and the race is on to discover under which hill the mole is hiding.
Here Knight’s script turns into a detective story with stakes ramped high and Zemeckis keeps the pace tight and the atmosphere loaded with suspicion. Pitt and Cotillard invest genuine emotion into the couple’s relationship, and suddenly all this spy silliness has grabbed you by the heartstrings. Meaning they do make them like they used to, with an added slice of seasoned cheese.
Populating the supporting cast are a welcome gallery of reliable faces including Jared Harris as Vatan’s paternal superior officer, Lizzy Caplan as his openly Sapphic sister and in a one-scene film-stealing role Simon McBurney as a ruthless government appointed rat catcher.
Despite the pedigree, this is not going to be troubling any award ceremonies… okay, the frocks might grab a Best Costume nomination. But in the battle for undemanding fun with a dash of derring-do and a splash of romance, Allied is victorious.
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We’ve elected not to include the spoilerific trailer.