Starring Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan
Sure, Brad Pitt is in Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Contact) latest film, the movie and tabloid star even gets the most screen time and drives the narrative. However, the only thing you will be talking about after the movie is Marion Cotillard (Inception, La Vie en Rose). The first and only French actress to win a leading Academy Award, is typically the best part about any movie she’s associated with, and Allied is no exception. From the first half where she’s armed and very dangerous, to her role as loving mother and wife, leading us to the third and most important part of this film, is she who she says she is. As a director, Zemeckis only knows one scale, and that’s epic. He taps into the classic Hollywood era here with big stars, big romance and loads of suspense.
From the moment Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan (Pitt) locks eyes with his accomplice, French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) they both feel something more than just a mission. The two are assigned to take out one of Hitler’s governors but over the course of pretending to be husband and wife, the two complete their mission and head to England together. They conceived a child in a sandstorm, so it’s only fitting their bundle of joy would be born during an air raid. A year later Max and Marianne find themselves blissfully happy despite WWII raging overhead. Questions however begin to arise about Marianne’s true identity and loyalty, the British government put Max in an impossible situation, testing his wife to see if she is the person she claims.
Audiences will swoon or reject the elaborate brush strokes and over the top liberties the filmmakers take, but everyone will agree on Cotillard’s layered performance.
Ironically Allied is a thrilling and beautiful love story, but if you know anything about Zemeckis work, he never gives the audience what they want or expect in his endings. Of course with a film that solely depends on “is she or isn’t she”, suspense is the main ingredient for a film like this, and story focuses on little else. That’s where Cotillard comes in, the moment she steps on the screen, we are as taken with her as Max. You can’t blame him for the untimely marriage proposal following a deadly shoot out. Seeing a beautiful woman in an evening dress brandishing a high-powered artillery weapon. Their love story is all Hollywood fantasy and screenwriter Steven Knight (Locke, Eastern Promises) just spoon feeds it to us in lavish style.
There isn’t much going on with supporting performances or even impressive (or at least noticeable) special effects, which is usual for a director known to push cinematic technical innovation. In one of his few R rated films, Zemeckis keeps this story intimate and focused on the dance between two people. Pitt, in his fourth WWII picture, is the standard macho hero, he doesn’t add or subtract anything to the whole of the experience, he is just there to sell the tickets. Joanna Johnston’s costume design clearly aims to emulate that of Casablanca, among other classics. Audiences will swoon or reject the elaborate brush strokes and over the top liberties the filmmakers take, but everyone will agree on Cotillard’s layered performance that’s among her best in the limited mainstream work she has done.
Marion Cotillard steals the show from Pitt and filmmakers with an equal parts commanding and emotional performance.