It’s 1942, right in the middle of the Second World War. An intelligence officer situated in French Morocco, North Africa, comes into contact with a female French Resistance fighter on a suicide mission behind enemy lines. When they return to London, their relationship is put under the strain of war. Basically, Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) parachutes into enemy territory, partnering up with Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard). They must pretend to be a happily married husband and wife by keeping up this romantic veil of illusion.
Masquerading as a high-ranking Parisian executive, Vatan is sent on a mission behind on enemy lines, parachuting into the desert on the outskirts of Casablanca. Soon, he’s in a Café Society-esque club attempting to link up with his partner, the beautiful head turner Beausejour (Marion Cotillard); the woman with hummingbirds on her blouse and his pretend wife. She’s the life and soul of every party and illuminates whole rooms with her presence. She’s eccentric, free-spirited and witty, as she tells Vatan that his Parisian accent is terrible and schools him on the ways of Moroccan men, like how they go up to the roof after they’ve made love to their wives.
In essence, Allied is Mr And Mrs Smith but better (also starring Pitt). As always, Cotillard gives a good performance yet her performance in this seems more honed in than others. Maybe it’s because she’s often using her native French but then at other times I felt that both performances were lacking. They’re at their best during the action sequences, not the steamy sex scenes. Their performances improve during the second act, starting from the birth of their child during an air raid in a ruined London.
The latter half of the movie seems very John LeCarré with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy yet it also has elements of Casablanca, Hitchcock classics like Notorious, and Topaz. The introductions of Jared Harris (The Crown) and Simon McBurney (Harry Potter) added more variables into the mix. McBurney is an anonymous intelligence worker from the infamous V Section. He could kill you with one look. Jared Harris plays Frank Heslop, Max’s senior officer but moreover his friend. I also liked the scary cameo from Matthew Goode (Roots).
Allied’s best bits are in the second half, where our leading characters’ relationship is really tested. You have to ask the question, can they really trust each other if they’re both spies? That’s when the suspense builds …hence my Mr & Smith analogy earlier. Aye, I admit the story is shaky through the first act but it more than makes up for it in part two.
The movie makes up for it in other areas such as: set design, costume, make up/hair design and even the well shot action scenes, but it’s no Anthropoid. Furthermore, there are some stunning examples of cinematography like the panoramic shots of the lovers in the car whilst a sandstorm violently brews around them. With generally good performances and excellent aesthetic features, Allied is a good one but you could probably wait for it to drop on Film4.