Film & TV

Film Critique: Allied

Directed By Robert Zemeckis. Starring Brad Pitt And Marion Cotillard.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Allied is a Political Thriller-Romantic Drama fusion film released theatrically in 2016 and released on DVD and digital in 2017. The plot revolves around the romance and marriage between French-Canadian Intelligence Agent Max Vatan (Pitt), and Marianne Beausejour (Coltillard) who meet and fall in love during an assignment in Casablanca during the height of World War II.

Plot and Story

The film starts off at a rather slow pace for the first half hour of the film in which the relationship between Vatan and Beausejour is established. Initially, the two Allied spies show no hint of affection for each other despite the irony of playing newlyweds sympathetic to The Nazi Regime as part of their cover. The two bond during the long undercover nights and truly fall in love with each other following the survival of an assassination mission where they themselves were almost killed in action. They marry and move to London where the film goes forward year later.

Marianne Beausejour-Vatan gives birth to their daughter during an air raid which is an intense scene contrasting the beginning of life and innocence with death and carnage in the background. In a way, this scene represents the entire theme of this film which I interpret as beauty surrounded by carnage.

This makes the plot twist and mystery of Marianne’s true identity and allegiance all the more suspenseful, and the conclusion and reveal of her truth coinciding with her suicide all the more tragic.

One of the things that really struck me after watching this film was the fact that “Marianne” is still relatable and sympathetic as a character even after her past as a Nazi double agent is revealed. The audience feels her plight of being blackmailed into service by The SS, while simultaneously understanding the metaphorical tightrope that Max is forced to walk between love and loyalty to country, and love and loyalty to his wife and family. Robert Zemeckis does an excellent job of flipping the spy double agent romance trope on its head.

What Other Critics Have Said.

Writing for Roger Ebert’s website, Peter Sobczynski gives Allied a four out of four star rating. He praises the film for it’s ability to stay away from the conventions of the typical battlefield war film filled with intense violence and psychological strain on the war torn hero tropes, and instead focuses on a more character driven narrative. Sobczynski also notes the influence of the classic film Casablanca itself for the romance portion of the story, and cites Alfred Hitchcock’s style of suspense and drama for the darker portions of the film.

I agree with Sobczynski’s review for the most part, with the exception on his comment about lack of psychological stress in the film. He is correct in that the war hero PTSD trope isn’t present in this film. However, the character of Max Vaten is put through a different type of psychological torture by being forced to spy on the woman he loves and this is evident by Brad Pitt’s emotionally filled performance.

A.O. Scott of The New York Times also begins his review by comparing Allied to Casablanca but in reverse. Scott writes the following:

It’s about how the problems in this crazy world don’t amount to a hill of beans next to the troubles of two people in love. The singing of “La Marseillaise” figures prominently and tearfully in the plot. The city of Casablanca itself functions for the lovers, played by Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, much in the way that Paris does for Ilsa and Rick. It’s the scene of their first bliss, the place they’ll always have when things get complicated elsewhere.

He than notes similarly to Sobczynski that the film barrows more from Hitchcock than anything else, yet still manages to develop original characters which help to move the story along at a good pace. He summarizes his review by comparing the film to a well prepared dish which serves to pay homage to the films of the past, and reviving an old classic genre for the future.

Conclusion

Much like to two film critics, I was a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. I've never seen Casablanca, so I can't vouch for the comparison but I can say that the deeply tragic romance was completely different from anything I've seen in an espionage drama, and I genuinely felt moved by Brad Pitt’s performance who played his part perfectly. I say that as someone who feels Brad Pitt gets over-cast in roles these days too. Despite the slow start, Allied has earned my personal rating of four out of 5 stars.

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