Allied is something of a curious star vehicle for Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. Set in a world of WWII espionage, the stars play spies that fall in love during a field mission and find potential double crossing once married back at home. The screenplay (by Steven Knight) strives for old school Hollywood wartime love story with dashes of noir and minor twists on character tropes. However, the film itself under Robert Zemeckis’s direction is all but disinterested in what makes the screenplay worthwhile, preferring a glossy veneer that rarely dives deeper than the over-tinkered surface. Much of Allied looks and feels completely artificial.
The film’s first Morocco-set act (its best) has a simmering intrigue that the movie doesn’t maintain once the lovers are united. Zemeckis empty visual grandness present in the rest of the film is enigmatic and entertaining here, building the film’s world rather than needlessly showing off. The film also hums to the understated rhythms of Cotillard’s performance, sly and involving without borrowing from the screen mavens of the era the film itself is chasing. Allied is never more alive than when Cotillard is center stage, even Pitt deferential to her subtle and sexy work.
But the plottier and more engaging beginning gives way to a flabbier and less engaged two-thirds. Back home, Pitt comes under investigation at the suspicion that his wife might be a double agent, but the film doesn’t muster up even the most obvious of emotional pulls. Bizarre details and cameos – like Matthew Goode’s mutilated veteran or Lizzy Caplan as Pitt’s thirsty lesbian sister – populate the film as minor distractions instead of idiosyncratic inclusions. Cotillard’s alliance should make for clear sights for the film to set, but drags with unrelated set pieces and more portentous side glances than it knows what to do with.
This majority of the film is also more centered on Pitt, without much brought to the film by the actor. We have seen undemanding characters given full-bodied treatments from him in the past that have capitalized on his seemingly endless charisma, but his work in Allied is not that. The film may be as disinterested with him as it is elsewhere, but the actor is as unispired as the film itself. Even the chemistry between the leads seems off, perhaps the film’s biggest bummer.
Allied is something of a punt for director Robert Zemeckis, a film that one wonders what drew him to the film in the first place given the fleetingly engaging result. The film is star vehicle, old-Hollywood romance, and noir in name only.