It’s easy to think of Allied as a film simply defined by its premise. A romantic thriller set during the Second World War, the film sees British infiltrator Max (Brad Pitt) fall in love and marry fellow saboteur Marianne (Marion Cotillard), only to return home and discover his new wife may be a German spy.
While the countless trailers for Allied have clearly illustrated how the ensuing tension between the two performances very much drives the film forward, they overlook a lot of the elements surrounding that relationship, and how these elements contribute to the film.
Firstly, it’s a gorgeous film from the get-go. The film’s first act is set in a unforgettably sandy and sun-baked Morocco, with each subsequent stage in the narrative weaving in its own elemental imagery. A similar level of care is taken with the production design. In fact, the sets and costumes positively pop with detail. The direction by Robert Zemekis here leverages these strengths to great effect. Allied frequently surprised me with its inventive film-making approaches. You may have heard a story something like this before, but it’s less likely you’ve heard it told so well.
Every step of the way, Allied invites you to step into and appreciate the care that’s gone into recreating its rich setting. Even when the going gets tough and things become violent, the film manages to hold it together with action sequences carrying a visceral weightlessness as they fly by. Even compared to other Pitt-led WWII romps like the pulpy Inglorious Basterds and grime of Fury, Allied holds its own.
Unlike the latter however, Allied’s characters all feel incredibly well-drawn. Pitt’s character Max comes off as believably hardened and desperate when he needs to be. Meanwhile, Cotillard delivers what is definitely one of her better Hollywood performances as Marianne – it certainly helps that the script gives her a lot of depth and material to work with.
Beyond the two leads, August Deihl makes for a delightfully-hateable Nazi, while Lizzy Caplan adds some pleasantly-normalized and understated queerness to things as Max’s sister. Jared Harris also squeezes in some memorable moments as Max’s craggy commander.
The only real gripes I could find with the film is that the ending played things a little too conventional for my liking. Allied sees itself as much as a love story as it is a war story – and the ending reflects that. However, I can’t help but shake the feeling that another version of this story, a version more willing to take a different tact, would have likely left a more evocative final impression.
Still, it’s hard to linger on these things for too long. Structurally sound and as visually splendid as it is stylish, Allied isn’t one you’ll want to miss.