Allied feels very old fashioned. It clearly is attempted to comment on and in some ways emulate Casablanca, generally regarded as the best movie or at least one of the best movies of all time. That goes from its opening in Casablanca to its ending on a desolate airfield. It should be no shock to learn that it doesn’t quite soar to those heights. It is a movie that relies on its stars to carry it, and those stars, Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, do that admirably, especially Cotillard. Still, thanks to some structural problems it doesn’t quite work as well as it could.
Pitt stars a Max Vatan, a Canadian British pilot who parachutes into Casablanca for a covert mission. There he meets up with Marianne Beausejour, Cotillard, the lone survivor from a French Resistance group. Together they infiltrate the Nazi favoring government to assassinate the German ambassador. During the mission Max and Marianne fall for each other, and Max brings her back to England with him afterwards. The movie then speeds through nearly two years, with the two of them now married with a daughter living in England. It is then that Max gets a report that Marianne might not be who she says she is and may in fact be a Nazi spy. Though he is forbidden from investigating himself, he proceeds to do exactly that in order to find out if his marriage is a lie.
The first hour or so is a downright excellent spy movie. The two of them make a good team as they navigate the treacherous path to get into that party. It is tense and moving, with Pitt doing enough and Cotillard being amazing. It helps that everything is compressed, with little except for the barebones needed to tell its story, keeping the tension high and the pace moving. After that is a similarly rushed trip through their courtship and her pregnancy. During this first half of the film there are some excellent scenes, from a sex scene during a sandstorm to the birth of their child during a bombing in the blitz.
It is too bad that the second half of the movie doesn’t quite stack up. Much of that has to do with how little Marianne there is during that portion. She quickly has suspicion cast on her and Max, unable to just wait while the government’s test is run, runs about trying to prove her innocence by finding anyone who knew her in France, which is hard since most of them are dead. Again the tension builds, as Max struggles to find proof of her innocence and normally innocent run ins take on a sinister cast with his suspicions. Then there is the thought that maybe this is all a test of him in preparation for a promotion, with the British Intelligence needing to be absolutely sure that he will follow orders. It works, but not quite as well as that first half.
I almost feel like I should have liked this movie more than I did, because it does most things right. The real problem is that while I like Pitt and Cotillard, the part that is the least believable is their romance. That part is sped through, hoping that the performers can find the chemistry to sell and they fall just a little short. Allied is perfectly good, but not nearly great.