There can be no denying the illustrious career Robert Zemeckis has had, with the likes of Forrest Gump and Back to the Future illuminating his remarkable CV. However with Allied, penned by the equally as accomplished screenwriter Steven Knight, you can’t help but feel that perhaps a different director may have made better use of the material. For this production is all style over substance, so overtly cinematic and affectionate towards classic Hollywood, that it appears at times like a pastiche when that is most definitely not the desired effect.
It appears at times like a pastiche when that is most definitely not the desired effect.
Set during the Second World War, Brad Pitt plays Max Vatan, an intelligence officer stationed in Morocco, where he is to go undercover as the husband of French resistance fighter Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard) in a bid to assassinate a high-ranking Nazi officer. Their lives depend on not being caught, so they need to be authentic – which isn’t too hard, as the pair fall hopelessly in love with one another, and move to London to wed and start a family. However it is here that a bombshell is dropped that could change things between them – if it’s true, of course.
Though in some ways there’s a certain allure to the romanticised throwback to Hollywood of old – with the setting of Casablanca far from a coincidence – the stylistic approach, where everything feels as though it’s been shot on a built up set rather than on location, is detrimental to the film, as it doesn’t feel deliberate. Not to mention the fact that when the narrative progresses to London, it attempts to be more gritty, and in doing so the balance doesn’t work, as having its cake and eating it springs to mind. That said, there’s an unique depiction of London during the war, capturing the more uplifting spirit of the people, the inclination to carry on as normal in the face of adversity, which, though setting the precedence and tone for forthcoming British drama Their Finest, is seldom seen in mainstream cinema.
There are moments towards the latter stages where suspense is the prevalent theme, and though vied for it isn’t pulled off, perhaps a victim again of the more glamorous opening act. But it’s hard to get right, and while the romantic narrative remains at the core, Allied represents something of a tricky balancing act for Zemeckis, as so much is going on at the same time, with elements of the thriller genre blended with the romance and the drama, all against the backdrop of WW2 – and though the acting is wonderful, as expected, it’s a hurdle the filmmakers struggle to overcome.