July 7, 2018

Allied (2016)
Grade: 56/100

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris

What it's about. Set in England, Morocco, and France during World War II. Brad Pitt is a French-Canadian spy who works for the Brits. He is dispatched to Casablanca to pose as the husband of Marion Cotillard, also a French-speaking British spy.

Their operation is successful, they fall in love, marry, and settle in England, where Pitt continues his espionage for the British military. Evidence arises that Cotillard is a German agent and Pitt is her mark. Pitt defies orders and begins an active investigation, leading to an unhappy ending.

How others will see it. Allied was a costly period spy drama. Given the budget of 85M, the U.S. box office was a disappointment. But the worldwide gross was 100M, and video sales and rentals have undoubtedly placed the film in the black.

The producers obviously made the film with intention of winning Academy Awards. In that respect, it was mostly a failure. The Golden Globes ignored it altogether. BAFTA and the Oscars gave up only a nomination for Best Costumes. I was surprised to see that Marion Cotillard, who won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2008, and had seven past César Award acting nominations, did not receive a nomination from any film festivals for her performance in Allied.

Imdb.com provides further evidence of a mixed reception. The user vote total of 111K is respectable, as is the overall rating of 7.1 out of 10. The ratings range from 7.2 (viewers under age 30) to 6.9 (viewers over 45). The "most helpful" user reviews are a mixed bag, ranging from "classy" to "movie by numbers." A much-repeated trope unfavorably compares Allied with Casablanca (1942), though the two movies don't have that much in common.

How I felt about it. Marion Cotillard has a mesemerizing screen presence, and provides the primary reason for watching this movie. Many cinemaphiles are undoubtedly fans of Cotillard, and Allied won't let them down.

But it's rare for a lead to pull off a film through a singular performance. Admittedly, the costumes and sets are beautiful to look at, as much as the leads themselves. But, ultimately, the quality of a movie generally comes down to the story and screenplay, and the former is especially suspect.

Pitt must know if his beloved wife is a German spy. So, without authorization, he commandeers a plane and flies from England to France, all to show her photograph to a French Resistance hero, in the effort nearly sabotaging their entire undercover effort.

Later, Pitt is told he must personally murder his wife if she proves to be a spy, when British agents would instead interrogate her and attempt to make her a double agent. And her suicide won't get her husband off the hook; he has much to account for, such as his last-ditch effort to escape with his German spy wife to Axis territory in a British military plane.

Then there is the screenplay, which actually has the line "Sir! It's been three fucking weeks, sir." Overall, Allied is a movie best watched with the sound off, so that you can enjoy the visuals without accounting for the story and script.