Directed by seasoned filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, Allied is a WW2 romantic thriller with just enough marquee value and period aesthetics to make it adequate. Parachuting down in the Moroccan desert, Royal Canadian Wing Commander Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) hooks up with his “wife,” French Resistance fighter Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), before going on a mission to execute a Nazi ambassador. After they are successful, they fall in love, get married, move back to London and have a child as the city is being air-bombed. Their seemingly happy union is in grave danger, however, as Vatan's superiors inform him that Marianne is very likely a German spy; Max refuses to accept the idea, yet is ordered to run a blue-dye operation on Marianne, testing her with false intelligence notes, just before D-Day.
I love Robert Zemeckis films, although I must confess that my least favorites in his resume are Forrest Gump and his various forays into 3D motion capture, such as The Polar Express and Beowulf. Zemeckis has always had fun playing around with visuals, and he tends to minimize this particular indulgence in Allied, an agreeably old-fashioned spy thriller which is attractive and entertaining enough for mainstream audiences looking for a thrilling excursion for two hours, but doesn't provide a whole lot of excitement in terms of romance or drama. Disappointingly, much of Allied is pretty routine and straightforward, although there are some moments which standout such as the scene where Max & Marianne make love in the desert during a sandstorm. And there is certainly suspense to be found within the story, but there isn't much momentum or pizzazz at the same time to make it standout from others of its ilk. Allied curiously comes off as one of Zemeckis' weakest films, lacking any real surprises or romantic spark as the story smoothly drives to its expected conclusion. The script by Steven Knight is noticeably lacking when it comes to any crackling dialogue or nail-biting intrigue, instead settling for a quiet, almost sterile mood and tone which feels more appropriate for something made-for-television by the BBC than a major Hollywood production.
As for superstars Brad Pitt & Marion Cotillard, there's no question they do their jobs and exceedingly well. Pitt adds a genuine sense of urgency to Vatan's dilemma in the second half which is both intense and palpable; and Cotillard is always ravishing, particularly when she's decked out in Joanna Johnston's Oscar-nominated costumes. These roles aren't exactly challenging to either actor; surely, their individual character arcs payoff, but they don't seem to be taking any particular risks with the overly familiar material. Still, they look fantastic and are given their requisite moments to shine. The production design and sets look equally fantastic (and both are given ample attention in the Blu-ray extras, among other things), although the film's authenticity is occasionally compromised by the fairly obvious CGI (the very first shot is a prime example), which is kind of a surprise considering Zemeckis' usually sound decisions in this area. The CGI is never a fatal flaw, to be sure, but it also tends to distract us as we watch these very period-friendly actors living and breathing during World War II. All in all, Allied is not even close to being a great film and it's certainly no Casablanca, but the stars and story are both reasonably compelling to make the film worthy of a rental or stream.
- BLU-RAY SPECS & EXTRAS -
Paramount's Blu-ray of Allied is worth picking up on if you enjoyed the film. Visually, there is certainly nothing to complain about as the detail is sharp and the colors are vibrant, with the digital sheen apparent throughout; as mentioned before, there is much to absorb with the many sets, costumes and locations. Whether you go with the 1080p print on the Blu-ray disc or the Ultraviolet digital copy, Allied looks exceptionally clean and positively gorgeous. Things are just as strong on the audio front, with the DTS-HD Master Lossless 5.1 audio track taking control: one scene which emphasizes the film's attention to sound is the London air blitz, with the swooshing planes and expected gunfire mixing very well with Cotillard's emotions while her character is giving birth. Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are also available in French, Spanish and Portuguese, with additional subtitles provided in all four languages. In terms of extras, Paramount provides ten featurettes, each on a specific topic, totaling approximately 68 minutes; they include the production design, the costumes, the direction, the story, the stars, the ensemble cast, visual effects, the music, the vehicles and the weapons. Those who wade through all the featurrettes should be satisfied, although it's frustrating that Paramount didn't just stitch all of them together to make a full making-of documentary.
- ABOUT THE AUTHOR -
Stone Gasman has been addicted to cinema ever since he was a child, becoming hooked on Chaplin, Hitchcock and Wilder by the time he was 10 years old. The film which changed his life was The Best Years of Our Lives, the 1946 winner for Best Picture and eight additional Oscars, which ultimately inspired him to join the US Navy. He is now a disabled veteran residing in New York City.