Wartime thriller about two spies thrown together in an undercover operation in Casablanca before falling in love and returning to London to get married during the Blitz. Starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, and directed by Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back To The Future, Cast Away)
Brad Pitt returns to war-torn Europe following the success of 2014’s Fury, but rather than being cooped up inside a tank he now finds himself in the roomier but no less claustrophobic environs of French Morocco.
As a Canadian, Max Vatan would no doubt have grown up learning French as a second-language, which is handy now he’s working behind enemy lines for the RAF but he’s about to test his accent to the limit . The story opens with Max returning to Casablanca to be reunited with his “wife”, Parisian resistance spy Marianne (Cotillard), after several months away working “in phosphates” for a French mining company.
In reality, the pair have never met and he’s only told to look for a woman in a purple dress in a nightclub. Somehow, the duo fudge their way through the joyful reunion, sufficiently fooling the wife’s circle of friends to get away as quickly as possible, seemingly to rekindle their love but in actuality to begin work on their plans to assassinate the local German ambassador at a party some ten days’ hence.
The duo keep up appearances 24/7 and as they get to know each other they hone the details both of the operation as well as of their own “marriage”. Walls have ears and there are eyes seemingly everywhere watching their every move.
Eventually, they end up getting married for real in London and have a child during an air raid. So far, so WWII, right ?
The couple have a few hoops to jump through before the authorities are happy but soon enough things settle down and family life sets in, Marianne with the baby, Max with a desk job at the air force.
Allied has the feel of being a movie out of time, not just in that it’s a period piece story but the way it’s scripted, shot and lit. The plot feels almost Hitchcockian in its scope and visually the picture looks like it was actually made in the late 40s or early 50s, with soft, washed-out lighting and all those tiny set details on the clothing, the cars and the surroundings being just so. It’s beautiful. Even in the terrors of an air raid on a hospital, there’s an elegance to the cinematography that places you right in the heart of the action and transports you to another era altogether. Despite a run time of over two hours, I found myself completely immersed in the movie and not once noted a sense of anything dragging.
The rest of the story I’m loathe to talk about for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say the tension mounts during the second half of the film when it becomes a race against time for Max.
As the shadows grow ever darker surrounding him, Marianne and baby Anna, that sense of claustrophobia draws in again, ever more tightly binding the three of them together, yet almost tearing them apart at the same time.
Trying to engender a movie with the flavour of Hitchcock is never an easy task, but Allied pulls it off, despite lots of bad press ahead of the release. Luckily, I don’t read the gossip columns so I don’t know what was said and nor do I care.
The lavish sets serve both London and north Africa well and Pitt is superbly restrained in an almost British way as he struggles to come to terms with what’s happening around him. Marion Cotillard was a natural choice for an English-speaking French spy and handles her role beautifully as an iron-fisted woman in velvet gloves. Their chemistry is excellent and as Marianne herself says, she likes to “keep the emotions real”. I enjoyed the film immensely.