Allied is a simple enough premise – two agents meet up to conduct an assassination operation in 1942 Casablanca, and the two agents manage to escape back to England.. Only later do questions emerge, which side are they actually on.
4 out of 5 stars.
The Long Form:
Allied opens up in 1942, Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) parachutes alone into the Moroccan desert. It's a slow and deliberate start as we see him walking along the sand dunes until he finally reaches a road. In the distance he sees a car approaching, there's a moment of tension and silence, as it gets closer. Where other films will be too uncertain about their audience's ability to get the gist of what's going on – they would have voiceovers or other less elegant ways of telegraphing the setup, director Robert Zemeckis just lets Max rest his hand on his gun, adjusting it in his holster. The audience knows the risk, and that's the perfect setup for how the rest of the movie unfolds.
The driver delivers Max to Casablanca where he meets up with his "wife" Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), who is a French Resistance fighter. Their assignment is to assassinate the German ambassador, and so they set about establishing him as being her newly arrived husband who she'd already been talking about to everyone in her social circles for some time It's a smart approach, it's not a pair just appearing out of the blue, but these are people who have been laying the groundwork for months.
Since it's all been given away in the movie trailer already, we know that the assassination succeeds and the pair make it out of the embassy alive. They realize that they've fallen in love with each other (a classic no-no for secret service agents), and Marianne winds up following Max back to England. They marry, start a family, and settle down and live happily ever after, right? Not so fast, it turns out that the English decryption agents have uncovered transmissions coming out of the township where Max and Marianne live and containing information that seems to have all crossed Max's desk. The questions start to surface, is Marianne who she seems to be, or is she a Nazi agent?
It is neither a fast-paced nor action-heavy film; in fact the assassination is one of only two real action scenes. If you are looking for a Saving Private Ryan-style grindhouse experience, this might not be one for you. However, if you like a well-crafted and suspenseful film then you're probably going to really dig this film.
Another type of moviegoer that will love the heck out of Allied are those that are into costume porn. All too often when we get World War II films, we're stuck with the stock costumes out of the studio's central wardrobe department. That is definitely not the case here, as really when was the last time you saw German full dress and mess dress uniforms? Mix in some of the best period French Moroccan and English fashions we've seen in film in a while (while it might not get many other award nominations, getting tapped for best costuming will no shock to anyone).
Along with the costuming, the film itself has stunning cinematography – from Max and Marianne's intimate scene in a car while in the midst of a sandstorm in the Moroccan desert, to the evening skyline of Casablanca, to Marianne's giving birth in the middle of a London street during a nighttime blitz bombing. For fans of One Perfect Shot, there are dozens of scenes in Allied that are easy candidates.
To its credit, Allied never talks down to it's audience, there's no voiceovers, there's no patently unnecessary exposition. The audience is expected to be able to follow along and feel along with the characters. As such, it's not a film that will appeal to everyone, the long tension buildup and suspense on wondering what the final result will be. But if you like the current fondness of the "slow-burn" then definitely give Allied a try.