ALLIED

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Stars: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Simon McBurney, Lizzy Caplan, August Diehl, Matthew Goode, Thierry Fremont.
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This old-fashioned World War Two set romantic drama from director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Castaway, etc) tries to be a Casablanca for the twenty first century. But it is also the film that brought Brad Pitt and costar Marion Cotillard together and sparked rumours that their on screen romance continued after the cameras stopped rolling. It is a bit like Mr And Mrs Smith, the romantic spy thriller that initially brought Pitt and Angelina Jolie together.
The film is set 1942. Canadian intelligence officer Max Vartan (Brad Pitt), who has been seconded to the British intelligence services, is parachuted into Vichy occupied Casablanca in Morocco. He meets up with another agent, the sultry Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard), a veteran of the French Resistance. Their mission is to assassinate the German ambassador to Casablanca. They pose as husband and wife, but the attraction between the pair is palpable, and when the mission is successfully completed he asks her to accompany him back to London. The pair get married and settle down in suburban London. Marianne even gives birth to their daughter during the Blitz in a quite harrowing scene.
A year later Max is informed by an SOE agent (Simon McBurney, all sneers) that the authorities suspect Marianne is a spy who has been leaking classified information to the Germans. They prepare to set a trap for her, and if she is guilty Max will be expected to execute her. He has just 72 hours in which to prove her innocence. Is Marianne really in love with Max or is she a spy merely playing a role?
Written by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Locke, etc) Allied is an old  fashioned thriller about love, intrigue, betrayal and trust, with some neat twists and turns. The film pays homage to the noir like Hollywood thrillers of the 40s, like Notorious and, of course, the Oscar winning classic Casablanca. The film follows the traditional three act structure, with a gradual build up of suspense during the race against time that drives the third act. Zemeckis manages to suffuse the material with a strong dose of Hitchcock-like suspense as Max desperately tries to prove Marianne’s innocence.
There is some well staged action sequences and some graphic war time violence, which is a little unusual for Zemeckis who is better known for his feel good films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the Back To The Future trilogy. Zemeckis has often employed cutting edge, state of the art special effects for his films but here he eschews effects for a more classical approach. Some great CGI work here recreates the devastating aerial bombing raids of the  Blitz of London.
Zemeckis’ regular cinematographer Don Burgess (Flight, etc) does a great job with the visuals here, with some great shots of the bombing raids on London, but he also captures the heat and harshness of the desert setting. The period detail and production design from Gary Freeman adds authenticity to the locations.
That this sexy but formulaic thriller works is due largely to the two central performances and sizzling chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard. This is a layered and intriguing performance from Cotillard and she brings surprising depth to her performance. There is also a good performance from Pitt.

★★★

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