Allied is no Casablanca but it could have been something if it had continued in the spirit it started
It’s awards season, and with it come the award contenders. By this I mean films that are designed from inception to execution with the aim of winning an Academy Award. Allied, directed by the heavy hitting Robert Zemeckis who has shifted in more recent years towards drama, graduating from Back to the Future (1985) to Forrest Gump (1994), is one of those films boasting two leads, Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, who cannot help but emanate a gravitas worthy of the golden statuette.
The problem with Allied is that while it is a perfectly okay, albeit slightly boring, film, it takes no risks whatsoever. Written by Steven Knight, the film is a ‘romantic thriller’ with more sap than thrills, opting for drama over suspense, putting the reader to sleep during the interminable obligatory lovey dovey sections that are meant to sizzle but fall flat, at least to this slightly impatient viewer.
Starting out in Morocco, Allied centers on the story of Max Vatan (Pitt), a Canadian Air Force intelligence officer who is sent to Casablanca during the Second World War to work with Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard), a famous French resistance leader, on a top secret and very important mission.
There are so few surprises in this film that I will not elaborate further on the mechanics of the pl, it will suffice to say that the atmosphere of French Morocco is perhaps one of the most pleasurable parts of the film, depicting in pleasing detail the glamour of a place that has been so celebrated since Casablanca (1942) -- the classic film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
Unfortunately, Pitt and Cotillard are essentially mismatched in a romance that depends on their chemistry: Max Vatan is a blustery square who strives to seem mysterious thrown into extreme relief by Cotillard’s Beausejour who is the real deal.
Perhaps the actual reason why the film is so lame is that it claims to be based on a true tale told to Knight when he was 21 -- a fact that problematises the telling of a good story as the makers are limited by boundaries, and the film suffers from a lack of poetic license, even with true stories the viewer ought to be surprised.
It is also a bit of a shame that Cotillard’s talents are mostly wasted after that first act of the film, she is the most interesting thing in it while Pitt blunders along without as much finesse.
Allied is no Casablanca but it could have been something if it had continued in the spirit it started, in that now almost mythical North African city where one of the most unforgettable love stories was set, in a far superior film that has truly stood the test of time.