By: Kevin Jordan
Two movies in one.
Sometimes, the toughest question to answer about a movie is “what’s it about?” Trailers almost always lie or mislead you if the movie is more complicated than transforming robots fight with each other. That’s why when people try to guess what a movie is about based on trailers, they always start with “It looks like…” Allied is a great example of this. Prior to seeing the movie, if you had asked me what it was about I would have said it looks like a World War II spy movie with Brad Pitt. That doesn’t really tell you what the movie is about, just its premise. Google “allied movie synopsis” and this is the first thing you get:
“During World War II, intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is stationed in North Africa where he encounters French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Reunited in London, their relationship is threatened by the extreme pressures of the war.”
Right away, you can see that the trailers are leaving out a ton of information, including that this movie is really two small movies lashed together. And, of course the trailers are made this way – they don’t want men to know that the second half of this movie is about relationships. It’s a war movie – keep your Nicholas Sparks out of it, thank you very much.
However, that synopsis is misleading as well. They don’t tell you what the actual plot of the second half of the movie is about because they wrongly think that would be a spoiler. I’ll get to that in a minute, but the important thing you need to know about this movie is that you’re getting two movies for the price of one.
(I will have some SPOILERS that are actual SPOILERS, but nothing major.)
Allied is about two spies and their time together. The first half of the movie covers how they meet and the mission they undertake together – an assassination attempt of a high ranking Nazi official in Casablanca. Right away, you should be thinking about the movie Casablanca and that there are probably all kinds of parallels and homages to it by Allied. If you spot them, let me know, because I barely remember Casablanca.
A lot of time is spent getting to know Max and Marianne and this first hour has to sell you on their chemistry together in order to set up the second half. Unfortunately, it’s less than convincing, basically boiling down to them having sex in a car during a haboob (I know I could have said sandstorm, but come on…Sex scene. Haboob. Heh. I’m basically a man-sized child). Once the mission is over, he proposes marriage to her and the movie just cuts to “London. Three weeks later.” Because of what I knew from the trailers, my first thought was “wait – what’s this movie about then?” It’s also very jarring because when the mission is over, the mission becomes a plot device for the second half. If you wanted to leave the theater at this point because you thought the movie was done, I wouldn’t blame you. But, then you’d miss out on a rather good second-half matinee.
The second part of the movie stays a spy movie, but Max gets a new mission. A year after Casablanca, Max’s boss, Frank Heslop (Jared Harris), summons him to the base and he’s informed by V-section (think CIA) that they suspect Marianne of being a German spy. They set up a trap for her to prove it and order Max to do nothing different. Naturally, Max ignores this order and investigates on his own to discover the truth before the trap is sprung. This half of the movie is much more dramatic than the first half. It also tells you that the last sentence of the synopsis I quoted you is a flat out lie. Their relationship isn’t threated by the extreme pressures of war, it’s threatened by her possibly being a German spy married to an Allied spy. Don’t worry – I liked this movie so I won’t tell you if she is or isn’t.
What I will tell you is that Cotillard makes this movie worth watching. For starters, she is a Frenchwoman in real life, but looks like she was lifted straight from the 1940s era. The make-up person responsible for her in this film had the easiest job in Hollywood during Allied’s filming. She also does duplicitous better than anyone. Think about her biggest roles. Mal in Inception and Miranda Tate/the-other-villain in The Dark Knight Rises. Again, I’m not saying she is a German spy in Allied, but you won’t be able to guess. She’s that good. At this point, she probably has the same reaction as Ron Perlman does when they get a script. He knows who he is when the script says “deranged freak walks in” and she knows that she’s getting the character “who isn’t who she seems.” When Robert Zemeckis was casting for her role, do you think he even bothered auditioning anyone else?
While I did like this film and recommend people give it a view, I think it would have been much better if they’d woven the two stories together. That would have allowed them to do a better job building the chemistry and relationship between the two and also would have allowed them to stage the reveals better rather than just having a mysterious V-section guy just tell us everything in an interrogation room. The flow of the movie would have been much better instead of the intermission we ended up with. But we at least got a decent movie and a good movie without having to pay twice. That’s far better than one dull Nicholas Sparks flick. Am I right, men?
Rating: Ask for two dollars back for the first half and fifty cents back for the second half.