Robert Zemeckis directed one of the funniest films of my childhood, 1980’s “Used Cars.” If my opinion counts for anything, “Casablanca” is one of the greatest movies ever put to film. So I walked into “Allied” feeling confident that I’d get a quality World War II spy drama. Well, that’s exactly what I got.
“Allied” opens in the city of Casablanca in 1942 with a pair of attractive people, Max (Brad Pitt) and Marianne (Marion Cotillard). The two meet with an assassination to carry out. Pitt’s Max is supposed to be detached by everything, having seen it all, until he sees the lovely and emotive Marrianne. Screenwriter Steven Knight must have been listening to Dooley Wilson, because the look and feel of “Casablanca” resonates in “Allied,” especially as it unfolds in the place of the same name. The design and the mood echo the classic film: Max and Marriane are even costumed similar to Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. They fall for each other, because spies fighting Nazis in war-torn North Africa always fall in love. The pair even gets amorous in a sandstorm. Later on, she will give birth in England while the R.A.F. and the Luftwaffe light up the night skies in climactic duels.
Marrianne has a secret, or maybe she does not. A large part of this movie’s watchability is due to Cotillard. She plays the role of a French resistance fighter with subtlety, and has a look that fits the period perfectly. Cotillard is better cast and does a better job than Pitt, who has made more World War II-themed films than any other contemporary actor, and seems to be under-playing everything. She’s as good here as she was playing Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose.”
Zemeckis has made some great movies, but not in a long time. “Used Cars” had a comedic sensibility with Kurt Russell and Jack Warden doing most of the heavy lifting. “Romancing The Stone” was amusing, romantic and has held up well over the years. “Forrest Gump” was a great movie and Tom Hanks sold the film based on his performance alone. With “Allied,” Zemeckis uses all the tools at his disposal to push a plot that boils down to “Is she a double agent?”
To give away more would divulge too much. Suffice to say Pitt and Cotillard are solid actors working with an above average script to tell a story that has been told before. Pitt is a good enough actor to be engaging even when he is not at the top of his game. Cotillard brings the chemistry to the table in her scenes with Pitt. There’s action, romance and a war going on all around. The bad news is Pitt has done no promotion for the film. The good news is, the ride is enjoyable.