Marion Cotillard went into promotion on Assassin’s Creed right after Allied. Allied has not performed well at the box office. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Allied. From a craft standpoint, it’s well made. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard don’t deliver the performances of their lives, but they’re hardly bad—the acting is fine. And this is probably the best movie Robert Zemeckis has made since Castaway. It’s a handsome picture, beautifully shot, splendidly dressed, and with gorgeous leads swanning through period locales in an array of 1940s fashions. No, there’s not any one thing wrong with Allied. It’s just boring as f*ck.
Max (Pitt) and Marianne (Cotillard) meet in Casablanca in 1942. He’s a Canadian intelligence officer, she’s French Resistance. Together, they assassinate a Nazi and then get married. Where Max is quiet and reserved, Marianne is the life of the party, and they make a perfect couple. They have a daughter, and go on with their lives in wartime London. Everything is fine until one day it’s not.
Allied clearly wants to be a throwback to glamorous wartime romances like Casablanca, or, more recently, The English Patient, but its adherence to that formula is so strict it renders the movie crushingly predictable. You can spot every plot twist ten minutes before it happens, and though the ending goes for the gut punch, it’s blatantly apparent there are only two possible finales, and the only real tension comes from guessing which ending they choose, Door #1 or Door #2. There’s no real drama in this, more like a mild curiosity.
It’s also only mildly romantic. Pitt and Cotillard look GREAT together, and the trailers promised steamy desert sex, like it would be a classy-horny movie—like The English Patient—but whatever chemistry Pitt and Cotillard muster can’t be sustained over the two hour run time. They’re most engaging together when they’re cat-and-mousing each other, but once they settle into domestic bliss, despite the espionage plot growing more complex, Allied loses its edge almost entirely.
The actual wartime stuff is really good though. Zemeckis is good at these kinds of historical recreations. He’s not as fanatically detail-oriented as Steven Spielberg, but he does escalating tension and fight scenes very well. The best parts of Allied are the run up to and execution of action sequences, which begs the question of why this movie insists on spending the entire middle planted in London picking mushrooms.
There’s also an unexamined subplot featuring Max’s little sister, Bridget (Lizzy Caplan, totally wasted), an Army adjutant and lesbian who is openly living with another woman, Margaret (Charlotte Hope), in London. With the constant bombardment of the Blitz ongoing, and Nazis just across the Channel, there’s a pervasive atmosphere that anything can happen so you have to live NOW because you might not be alive tomorrow. During one scene the officers talk about this, and how it’s allowing a lot of “bad behavior” to go unchecked and unpunished, including Bridget’s relationship.
Make THAT movie! WHY isn’t Bridget the main character?! We’ve seen “handsome man falls for inappropriate woman during wartime” plenty of times. You know what we’ve never seen? We’ve never seen a World War II spy movie about a woman engaged in an open relationship with another woman, both of them knowing their romance is ultimately doomed, for with armistice comes repression. Imagine: A movie about a female intelligence agent in London, working toward the very thing that will end her relationship, thus forbidding her from ever seeing the love of her life again. THAT is a movie I want to watch. But we’re stuck with Allied, a by the book, old-fashioned wartime romance flick. It’s not bad, but it’s not really good, either. And Max and Marianne aren’t remotely as interesting as Bridget and Margaret, whose story goes untold.
Here's Marion at the Assassin's Creed photocall in London yesterday.