Allied is an old-school entertainment made with new-school aesthetics, a film that feels refreshingly out of step from the constant demands of the studios: a star-driven, non-franchise, and thoroughly polished piece of filmmaking for adults that carries the express purpose of providing a good night out at the movies. Directed by Robert Zemeckis (one of our last true movie-magic showmen) and written by Steven Knight (Locke, Dirty Pretty Things, Peaky Blinders), this extremely well-crafted film benefits from an excellent third act, luxurious production values, and nearly blinding star wattage from the extra-glamorous duo of Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. The two of them play spies who meet up on a job in Casablanca in 1942, looking to assassinate a high-ranking Nazi commander while posing as husband and wife.
The opening passages of the film certainly evoke all of the movies from yesteryear that the filmmakers so obviously are in love with, while Knight’s script stays intimate with the two main characters for the entire piece, allowing for playful banter and unexpected surprises. But the hook of the film rests on the juicy notion that the wife might really be a German spy, making things all the more complicated as the two lethal love-birds have gotten married and moved back to London during the height of the war. If she’s in fact a spy, Pitt has been given orders to execute her on the spot. Is she or isn’t she, and will he or won’t he?
When I first saw the trailer, I figured that the overall effectiveness of the film would rest in the finale, and how the ultimate reveal would be treated and dealt with. And while I’d never risk spoiling anything that goes down in this confident and glossy confection, I’ll allow that the third act is genuinely riveting, with Zemeckis ratcheting up the suspense thanks to supremely tight editing by the team of Jeremiah O’Driscoll and Mick Audsley. The gorgeous widescreen cinematography by Don Burgess is aided immensely by the seamless integration of some sensational CGI/special-effects and the evocative production design from Gary Freeman, while Pitt and Cotillard both look too sexy for words, costumed to an inch of their lives by designer Joanna Johnston, with Pitt digitally scrubbed into Golden Boy Adonis mode, and Cotillard radiating sensuality and potential duplicity at nearly every turn.
Knight’s sharp and smart script features strong dialogue, sensible plotting, and nothing that felt over the top or unnecessary. Alan Silvestri’s score hits all the proper notes no matter the scene. And for Zemeckis, his work on Allied marks yet another surprise effort after so many intensely CGI-driven spectacles, pairing extremely well with his Denzel Washington collaboration, Flight, in that they’re both decidedly R-rated endeavors that will appeal to an older audience and likely to nobody else. I loved how this film felt like one of those vintage studio programmers from back in the day, except gussied up with sex/nudity, bloody violence, and salty language. This is a robust piece of work from everyone involved.
Review by Nick Clement