By Jack Dignan
Originally Published on Salty Popcorn - You Can Find Several Other Reviews By Jack Dignan Here As Well
Lies. Love. Suspense. Deception. The mystery is afoot when it comes to ALLIED, the new war thriller from framed director Robert Zemeckis. Zemeckis is a great director, there’s no doubt about that. This is the man who directed the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy, CAST AWAY and FORREST GUMP. The man knows how to make a good movie, and while his last couple of movies opened to decent, if not slightly mixed reviews, I’ve been a fan of most of them. Last year’s THE WALK was an exciting adventure, and FLIGHT was an interesting look at a broken man. I was excited for ALLIED, hoping to see Zemeckis deliver a film on the same level as some of his earlier works. But does he deliver?
We open in Casablanca in 1942, the war brewing all throughout the globe. A charming, handsome young man, Max Vatan (Brad Pitt), has been sent to this wondrous little town to be someone he’s not. He’s undercover, given a temporary name and identity, as well as a temporary wife. Her name is Marianne Beausejou (Marion Cotillard), and as she states in the film, she’s “very good at pretending.” The two work together to complete a job, but in the process, they do the one thing everyone in their line of work knows they should never do. They fall in love. When the job’s done, they wed and move in together in Max’s hometown of London, the war sill going on.
We catch up with them over a year later, the two now with a child who they very dearly love. Max is called in for a top secret, underground meeting by two high-ranking officials, including a close friend of his, Frank Heslop (Jared Harris). They have reason to believe that Marianne, Max’s wife, is a German spy who’s been giving out all the classified information that Max has been receiving. Max doesn’t want to believe it, but the evidence is strong, and so he’s given a job he can’t say no to, not matter how much he wishes he could. He’s given the job of finding out if she is in fact a spy, and if she is, he’s to kill her with his own hands.
ALLIED is a tense and emotional thriller that works. It gets you attached to these characters, all before trying to change your perspective on each and every single one of them. Are they really who they say they are? Is this all a game? Is it real? Who’s telling the truth here? They’re just a few of the questions that will be running through your head as you watch the mystery unfold. The film does an excellent job at setting up the bond between Max and Marianna, and the thought of her potentially being a spy is almost heartbreaking. I found myself begging for that situation not to go down.
The third act goes in a slightly different direction than one would expect, but not so far out of the way that it feels out of place. Every action feels justified and real, the stakes consistently high. It’s an emotional gut punch of an ending, and it’s one I didn’t see coming. But it works. It fits. It doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, but instead suits the film’s plot perfectly. In fact, the later scenes in this movie may just be the best scenes in the entire film. They’re the most exciting and thrilling scenes, creating a third act that’s engaging and, quite frankly, brilliant.
Unfortunately, it does take a while to get to the film’s juiciest moments. While a few scenes drag here and there, most of the scenes involving Max’s investigation are completely gripping. However, this plot isn’t introduced as soon as one would think. The initial set up in Casablanca takes about forty five minutes to complete, and after that, it’s another ten to fifteen minutes until Max is actually called down into the underground meeting. The Casablanca scenes are interesting to a degree, but the pacing is dreadful, making it a much longer experience than it should’ve been. The final film clocks in at 124mins, putting it just over two hours. In my opinion, ALLIED could’ve been of a much higher quality if it were a 90min thriller. It could’ve been a tightly plotted, twist-filled rollercoaster that’s brisk and to the point. Lose the fat, so to say.
The upside to having an extended runtime is that there’s more room to showcase the wonderful talent this film managed to get on board. While this can refer to talent both in front of and behind the camera, as the direction is quite exquisite, the real standout of ALLIED is in the performances. When a film has Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as your two highest billed actors, you know it’s going to be good. And they disappoint. The night before I watched this movie, I watched BURN AFTER READING. In that film, Brad Pitt plays a goofy, exercise crazed character, and it was so brilliant and so unlike Pitt. I then saw him in ALLIED, and his performance is stoic, dramatic and determined. It just goes to show how versatile and great an actor this man is.
As for Cotillard, this woman is amazing. Simply amazing. I honestly believe she can turn any script into an Oscar worthy performance. She’s so good here, which is to be expected. Her character has a lot going on, whether it’s her troubled and deep backstory or just the way she’s got to handle everything with her job. Cotillard takes on every situation with grace and brilliance, and her character was without a double the most interesting character in this entire movie.
ALLIED is a tense and emotional war thriller that works thanks to exquisite direction by Robert Zemeckis, as well as two utterly brilliant lead performances from Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. It’s not the type of movie I could see myself going back and watching again, but for a one-time viewing, it’s great entertainment.
3 1/2 Stars
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