It is perhaps a sad symptom of the world in which we live that it is a difficult mental task to divorce Allied
It is a shame for the film at the heart of the tabloid stampede. Or is it? After all, it is likely that ticket sales will be boosted. A morbid curiosity now surrounds a film that otherwise – stellar cast and eminent director notwithstanding – could feel like a minor, low key release.
So, what is Allied about? Set initially in Casablanca in the 1940s at the height of the Second World War, Intelligence Officer Max Vatan (Pitt) meets French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard). Together, during the course of their mission, they fall in love. It is upon their return to London, however, that cracks emerge in their union.
Written down, the story sounds rather trite and cliché-heavy. And that is not all. There are a number of other aspects of this release that disappoint. Director Robert Zemeckis, the erstwhile director of Forrest Gump, Castaway etc, is no newcomer, but the cinematography that he has authorised smacks of a stale recreation of the period. It feels like a late 1990s film trying to evoke the 1940s, such is the outdated artifice and staid hue. There are also some scenes that are too picture postcard cheesy to be true – one scene in a car in the middle of a sandstorm springs particularly to mind.?Add to that the fact that Pitt is not quite at his best, and you have real cause for concern. The prognosis does not look good.
Yet, Allied is so wonderfully wound with its are-they-or-aren’t-they narrative, and so expertly eked out with its clues and hints, that it equates to something substantially more than the sum of its parts. There is a real Hitchockian tension at play. Undeniably, Zemeckis knows his trade. He knows how to ply it. He stitches the diegetic fabric with an invigorating flair and the five act structure afforded by Steven Knight’s script benefits from knowing little before you go in. This is has more twists and turns than a piece of Japanese knotweed.
People will, rightly or wrongly, read into each line and exchange between Pitt and Cotillard. There is certainly an unavoidable added weight and import hanging off each exchange between this couple. Viewers will ponder whether or not this is a case of life imitating art. It is to the film’s credit that this vanishes from the mind as the movie unfolds and it is the characters, and not the actors, with whom you are most concerned about. The marriage of Pitt and Cotillard as Max and Marianne, fizzes with a palpable, passionate chemistry.?She dials down the Lady Macbeth and up the loving lady.
On a final note, whilst a common reflex – due to the initial setting – would be for one to think of the iconic Bogart/Bergman 1942 flick Casablanca with this war time drama, the reference cuts a little deeper than mere geography alone.?That’s not for us to spoil it though. All we’ll say is, ‘Play it, Sam’.
A thoroughly gripping drama of mystery, paranoia, subterfuge and love, Allied will leave you guessing until the final reel.