Allied is a fun and bittersweet date movie, but it's not the action film or spy drama the trailers might have you believe.
I've seen a lot of people comparing this film to the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie vehicle Mr and Mrs Smith based on the trailers. I assure you, that couldn't be further from the truth. Allied is actually much softer in tone, and much slower in pace. It's essentially a love story with a spy theme, and a little World War Two flavor. The film spends far more of its running time devoted to the romance between its primary characters than it does on anything else, and it isn’t until about halfway through when it finally moves on to the meat of the story the trailer promises: a wife who might actually be a German agent.
Allied is directed by Robert Zemeckis, and as such very competently checks all the boxes for a romantic drama, and then adds in some escalating tension to keep with its promised storyline. I feel like for the average movie-goer, this film will be an enjoyable date-night experience, as it hits all the right notes and, as it moves along, pulls all the right heartstrings. Zemeckis is still the same director who brought us classics like Forrest Gump, Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future, and more. Allied is nothing if not well-polished, well-directed, and easily watched. Brad Pitt portrays the films protagonist, Royal Canadian Air Force pilot and intelligence officer Max Vatan, with the same style and skill we've come to expect. Pitt continues to be one of his generation's better actors and leading men, especially in this kind of role. Marion Cotillard, as the supposed French Resistance member Marianne Beausejour seems to try to echo the famous portrayals of 30s and 40s femme fatales in the first half of the film, and does so in a manner that flows consistently with the tone of the film, and in the second half, as the happy wife living in London, settles in comfortably to the unassuming housewife.
However, when I say it just feels like it is “World War Two flavored”, it comes from the fact that the war seems like it is used as a prop. The first act of the movie moves well enough along as a WW2 spy thriller, pushing the protagonists through 1942 Casablanca, introducing a wide variety of characters both German and Vichy French collaborators. This culminates in their daring mission and the establishment of their romance. However, in the second and third acts, there are tense, scary air raids at night, but then the next day, the characters will travel around and interact in an essentially idyllic WW2-era London free of any damage or other indicators of war, except for the occasional sandbag wall or other bit of set dressing when around the airfield base that Max is based out of. WW2 often feels like it comes and goes depending on whether or not it is necessary to the scene. It basically serves to raise the stakes in the plot and raise the excitement in certain scenes.
But this isn't the war action movie the trailer wants you to believe, and it's barely the spy thriller you might have expected. There are only a handful of action scenes. In fact, you've seen snippets of essentially all of them in the trailers. And, after the first section of the film, the spy thriller portion of the film is much less intense, even though the stakes are significantly higher for the protagonist. There's a lot of “is she/isn't she” agonizing and suspicion, and the script presents Max with a very serious dilemma, but ultimately, that seems designed more to bring the focus back to the love story rather than accentuate the spy story.
At this point, there's really no more discussion of the film that can't end up as mild spoilers, so for those looking for the meat of any review, I'll cut to the point. As I said in the first line, this is a fun and bittersweet date movie. It's going to appeal to a fairly wide audience. It's mostly love story, and it's not too violent or too sexual, or too scary for the majority of moviegoers. But it's also just not anywhere near as deep as it could have been. It deftly moves from A to B to C, but it seems like this film had the potential to have a few more letters in it that were left out for simplicity's sake, or to make an easily consumable film for the mainstream audience. It definitely won't sate WWII history buffs, or people who love spy thrillers. They'll notice all the little problems with the script, the conveniences in the setups, and the seemingly incongruous actions of the intelligence agencies giving Max his orders, as opposed to what would have been a more logical and historically accurate depiction of British counterintelligence in WWII.
Grade: B Allied does what it does well, but it’s disappointingly shallow.
Allied is open now at theaters nationwide.