It is perhaps a sad symptom of the world in which we live that it is a difficult mental task to divorce Allied from the tabloid drama that enveloped its pre-release buzz.

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 It feels like a late 1990s film trying to evoke the 1940s, such is the outdated artifice and staid hue.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.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Allied
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Having made it out of Essex alive, aside from the glorious confines of HeyUGuys, Greg can also be found scribbling regularly for Front Row Reviews and many other film-related publications. When not bashing away at a computer, he can also be found occasionally locking horns with the politically diametrically-opposed Jon Gaunt on his radio show, as well as conducting the odd webinar for film schools. Lowlights, thus far, have been the late, great John Hurt admonishing with a 'do you really think like that?', upsetting acclaimed filmmaker Ondi Timoner with his piece for the Sunday Mirror and falling out with the blog editor of the Huffington Post. He also brought Liv Ullmann to tears for a piece for this very site (but in a good way... more of a highlight, that one). He can also be found writing on theatre and music for the Islington Gazette, Ham & High, Hackney Gazette, NME and others. Often found moaning about how tired he is, as well as how frustrated he is – particularly as a musician.