Critic Consensus: Allied has its moments, but doesn't quite achieve epic wartime romance status -- a disappointment made more profound by the dazzling talent assembled on either side of the camera.
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Critic Reviews for Allied
Cotillard is the sole bright spot, and even she risks being upstaged by her fantastic wardrobe.
Zemeckis is a master of the big, broad Oscar-bait drama, and he makes the most of a well-constructed screenplay by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises)
Zemeckis's formidably staunch and precise technique, itself a nostalgic vestige of classic Hollywood movies, seals up the movie's joints and keeps the air of life out; it's a suffocated, lifeless adventure.
Zemeckis ... seems uncertain whether to treat the tale as a wrenching saga of split loyalties or as a glamorous jaunt. Having gathered all the ingredients for derring-do, he forgets to turn up the heat, and the derring never does.
What a handsome empty shell of a movie Allied is. Despite the star power of Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, their scenes together fail to ignite even a glimmer of a spark.
Audience Reviews for Allied
CASABLANDA - My Review of ALLIED (2 1/2 Stars) I'm a little late to the party reviewing this stinker, because truth be told, I first attempted to see the film last month and, bored out of my skull and viewing it at the tail end of a 3 movie day, I slept through 3/4 of it. Wanting to review it fairly, I saw it again last night and managed to stay awake...but barely. Man is this a lumbering bore, yet one with such a rich pedigree that I had to give it another shot. Robert Zemeckis, legendary director of such blockbusters as BACK TO THE FUTURE, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, and DEATH BECOMES HER is an old school Hollywood classicist who has always believed in structure, character development, inciting incidents, and those "audience applause" moments. Clearly it has served him well, despite my belief that FORREST GUMP remains one of the worst Best Picture winners of all time, and ALLIED feels like a film firmly within his wheelhouse. With a screenplay by Steven Knight (LOCKE, EASTERN PROMISES, DIRTY PRETTY THNGS), who with his edgy resume sounded promising in theory, Zemeckis tells the story of Max Vatan (Bradd Pitt) a Canadian airman who parachutes into Nazi occupied Morocco to meet up with Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), a French resistance fighter. They're spies posing as husband and wife with the shared goal of executing the German Ambassador. The setup is G-L-A-M-O-U-R-O-U-S. Gorgeously shot by longtime Zemeckis collaborator Don Burgess, the look and feel is Golden Age Hollywood, when stars sauntered through foreign lands in dazzling clothes, smoked cigarettes, and fell in love with just a mere glance. Pitt's Max enters the first frame of the film feet first as he beautifully parachutes onto a desert landscape. It's a magical shot that thrusts you right into the story. What follows is so reminiscent of CASABLANCA, complete with a nightclub scene filled with tuxedos and swastikas. Cotillard even gets one of those grand entrances where she turns around to face the camera and gives a dazzling look to Pitt. Every crisp image plays out like a live action George Hurrell photograph. The first act of the film has a few exciting twists and turns and snappy details, such as Cotillard's ability to instantaneously fake a long term relationship with Pitt, or his skills at shuffling cards, but there's a marked difference in energy levels between the two. Cotillard vividly fills in the blanks in her character, infusing every sultry look or stride in her walk with the memorable kick of an Ingrid Bergman or Greta Garbo. Meanwhile, Pitt, seems completely checked out in the same way Bruce Willis does when he's phoning in a performance. I haven't seen Pitt appear this laconic since MEET JOE BLACK, and it's disconcerting considering all the dynamic great work he's done over the course of his career. Perhaps in his head he thought his stillness would read like Humphrey Bogart or Cary Grant, but it plays so mutely that when his character kicks a chair, it's so startling that Max has a pulse. When the couple make love in a car with a giant sandstorm swirling around them outside, I thought Zemeckis had achieved a cheesy greatness, despite the disappointing lack of chemistry. Let's put it this way, I was rooting for the sand. After the first act, which has a whiff of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS Nazi-killing wish fulfillment going for it, the location switches to a short time later in London. In a state of rubble and with barrage balloons protecting the city from further damage, Max and Marianne settle into a comfortable marriage. It seems like life has returned to normal, which is the ultimate death of any forward moving spy thriller, and for a while, I thought I was watching John Boorman's HOPE AND GLORY outtakes instead of the nourish intrigue of the first third. During this stretch, we meet Lizzy Caplan, who plays Max's lesbian sister. And that's it. She's just there. Kissing her girlfriend a lot. And nothing else. She has zero bearing on the story except to remind us that lesbians existed before 1969. It's a random detail in a slow film that really can't afford to drift. Luckily, the filmmakers introduce a plot turn when Max learns that Marianne may actually be a Nazi spy. I won't spoil where this goes, but suffice it to say, things get mildly more interesting, relieving us of the welcome but pointless sapphic pleasures of a very minor character. We're treated to a few plot twists, but they fail to generate much heat, due to the fact that we're given new information about characters instead of getting to participate in the mystery from the beginning. The only times the film reaches as close as it can to potboiler level is during its over-the-top moments, such as when Marianne gives birth to their daughter outside during the blitzkrieg of London or when a plane falls from the sky. Otherwise, this is pretty anemic stuff wrapped up in a gorgeous package. Even with CASABLANCA, I never quite believed Rick and Ilsa's love story. I thought, "How can they always have Paris, when they really only knew each other such a short time?" With ALLIED, the characters actually get plenty of time to languish in their love story. It spans several years, and even with that going for it, the details of their relationship seem like pencil sketches. One can only wring so much passion out of Marianne cutely nicknaming Max, "Québécois" because of his flailing attempts to speak Parisian French, but it's not enough to believe in their undying love. It all comes across as a bland, slow dirge. If you're a fan, however, of sumptuous costuming, beautiful people, and a healthy dose of World War II intrigue, you could do worse than ALLIED. I mean, you could have chosen HANOVER STREET or YANKS instead!
The first half displays the action and build up expected the travel through to the end. however it dazzles out leaving you with an unsatisfying and unsuspenseful ending!
Forgive me the indulgence but please hear me out on this peculiar observation. In 2005, Brad Pitt stars in a movie where his onscreen wife may be a spy and he may need to kill her, and his marriage to Jennifer Aniston ended shortly thereafter. Flash forward over ten years and Pitt is starring in another movie where his onscreen wife may be a spy and he may need to kill her, and his marriage to Angelina Jolie is now coming to a reported end. Obviously there are extenuating circumstances in something so personal as relationships, but if I was Pitt's agent, I think I might advise against all future projects that even come to close to this cursed storyline. Allied wasn't worth it, pal. In 1942, Max (Pitt) and Marianne (Marion Cotillard) are husband and wife and also spies for the British government. They're enjoying life back home with their infant daughter Anna when Max gets some startling news. His superior officers are investigating whether Marianne is secretly a German spy. He is to learn for himself what is real and if she is indeed a spy Max is ordered to kill her or he himself will be executed for treason. Allied already starts dangerously when the majority of its opening act is set during WWII Casablanca, setting up an unwinnable comparison. We're meant to watch these two secret agents go about their clandestine operation and fall in love. One of those things happens. Oh sure, for the purposes of the plot, Max and Marianne fall in love, but no member of the audience is going to believe what they see. Pitt and Cotillard have anemic chemistry together and their characters are too stilted to draw us in (rumors of an onset romance between the stars seem unfounded by the results on screen). They achieve their first act mission, get their kill, but they don't really encounter complications. It all proceeds just a little too easily and we fail to get a sense of their capabilities as spies. They practice the cover of husband and wife but only in superficial appearances that come across more like Marianne chiding Max ("A real husband would offer his wife a cigarette first"). I recognize that these people are spies and thrown into danger but we need to invest in them as characters if the rest of the movie is supposed to matter, let alone their relationship together. There are no supporting characters of importance. Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex) pops up as Max's lesbian sister and you'd swear she'd have some significance, but nope. When Max is investigating Marianne, it never feels like the pieces are coming together. Rather it feels like we're just getting new pieces, some lucky and some less so. The plotting feels too disjointed and arbitrary. Screenwriter Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Peaky Blinders) is one of the best working in the industry, especially when it comes to crime thrillers and naturally drawing out tension. I expected more from him with Allied, but then that will be a trend with several aspects of this mediocre movie. Here's the problem with this premise: it's too limiting. Either Marianne is a spy or she isn't, and if she isn't that makes for boring drama. You're stuck so more and more obstacles have to be put in place to merely delay the inevitable reveal because that's all the movie had. A solution could have been an Act Two break that revealed Pitt's character to be the real spy, allowing the audience to reflect back on his action with a new lens of understanding. The crux of Act Three would then be Max's moral dilemma of whether he turns himself or whether he frames his wife and in doing so erases evidence against himself. It would be a far more challenging and ethically murky scenario than a rather rote finale where the characters follow their predestined paths. I also think summary execution of a spy is a waste considering the value of covert information or even posing as a triple agent. I think the entire story should be told from a different perspective (okay, now spoilers). Little Anna is far too young to know what happened to her mother and I imagine there will need to be a cover story even for the official cover story. My pitch would be tell this story in the mid 1960s when Anna is now in her early twenties and discovering the larger world. She starts to come across testimony or nagging pieces of evidence that contradict her father's story of what happened to Marianne, and her death now seems very mysterious. As she uncovers the old evidence she learns that her own parents were spies, a truth that had been kept from her, and all the evidence points to dad being the killer. The Act Three confrontation between harried father and daughter would then reveal the actual truth and that Marianne took her own life out of guilt and a desire to spare her husband punishment from his remorseless superiors. The lie was meant to comfort but now it discombobulates a family and a woman's understanding of her parents and her relationship to them (end spoilers). Doesn't that sound like a better version of Allied, dear reader? I certainly think so. Director Robert Zemeckis (Flight, The Walk) is such a skilled craftsmen but this movie just gets away from him. You sense his urge to insert effects sequences into what should be an ordinary period thriller, and so we get distracting sequences that either rip you from the reality of the movie or might make you titter unintentionally. Max and Marianne's coupling scene involves having sex in the front seat of their stranded car in the middle of a sandstorm. It would have been far more effective and possibly erotic if the camera had merely stayed in that confined space and let the building passion bubble over, all while the light becomes more and more faint from the sand storm, adding all sorts of sensual lighting opportunities with obfuscation and shadows. Instead, Zemeckis has a rotating camera shot that goes on for about a minute steady without cuts and zooms in and out of the car, inside and outside the dusty sand storm. It stops any sensuality from building. Another example if that Anna is born during the Blitz, and yet again instead of being in a small space and leaving more up to the imagination, Zemeckis and his special effects team have to recreate the air assault which increases the melodrama in a bad direction. Zemeckis has never really done a straight thriller and I can feel his flagging interest as he searches for special effects sequences to hold onto as some sort of anchor. I don't think his skillset was the right balance for this story and the execution it needed to prosper. It really doesn't feel like Pitt (The Big Short) wants to be in this movie at all. Rarely have I seen this lethargic a performance from usually one of the most reliable actors in Hollywood. Part of it is the withdrawn and conspicuous nature of his spy character but it's more than that. I don't know if he feels like he understands his character or is that committed to the script, and so it feels like he's just coasting and waiting for the end. It reminded me of the disastrous Oscar hosting duties from a sleepy James Franco and an overcompensating Anne Hathaway. Cotilard's character is the gregarious and charming one, and so it feels like she has to do all the heavy lifting to compensate for the dearth of Pitt's performance. Cotillard can be a brilliant actress with powerful instincts down to her very marrow, as last evidenced in 2014's devastating and humane drama of personal desperation and dignity, Two Days, One Night. She has to play the more active role, first as the charmer and then as the mystery. She works much better as the charmer. I don't think either actor knew fully who their characters were and stumbled forward. Allied is a strange movie where the director, the star, and the screenwriter each didn't seem to know what movie they wanted to make. Each major participant, short of a game Cotillard, doesn't even seem like they want to be here, as if this was a school assignment that they're doing the minimal amount of work to fulfill a requirement. Allied just feels like one of those big studio misfires where nobody was on the same page. The story lacks characters to connect with and complications that feel connected to them and their circumstances. The plot follows the path of least resistance and arrives at its predetermined destination right on time, to the monotony of its audience. Pitt's somnambulist acting makes the movie and his lead character harder to enjoy. There's a definite lack of intrigue with this premise and its ultimate execution. I expect better from Zemeckis, Pitt, and Knight, and I'm sure they'll deliver with their next projects. In the meantime, skip Allied since it certainly feels like the cast and crew weren't in alliance. Nate's Grade: C
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