When I heard the news back in September that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were splitting up I, like a lot of the internet, was shocked and stunned. I mean, if they can‘t keep their shit together what hope do the rest of us have trying to hold onto (or find) love, right? When I expressed my dismay on Facebook, a friend asked me if I’d seen the trailer for the soon to be released WW2 film starring him and Marion Cotillard and suggested that adulterous hijinx were at play… you know, “The Bone Dance”, “Park The Porpoise”, “Hide The Salami”, “The Horizontal Tango”… After hearing, that bit of news, I immediately rushed to the internet to watch said trailer, and that is all it took. Much like a gawking, rubber-necked driver passing an unfortunate auto accident with the hopes of seeing something unsettling or perhaps downright graphic, my hopes were for this movie that somewhere in there, somehow I’d see maybe a little bit of the sinister and corrosive spark that would ultimately lead to the doom of one of Hollywood’s most powerful couples. I didn’t really find any of that but instead was treated a very good movie.
The story takes place in 1942 during the 2nd world war and centers on Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) and French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard). Posing as married Parisian sympathizers for Hitler’s cause, they have been tasked by the British government to assassinate a German ambassador during a gala event in North Africa. Having never met before receiving the full details of their assignment, it doesn’t take very long before their cover as a young couple madly in love turns into a reality. When they complete the deadly assignment, seemingly without a hitch, Max petitions the British government to grant Marianne citizenship and when the government does so, the two become married and shortly after, have their first child. While Marianne eagerly embraces her new life as a loving mother and wife, Max dutifully continues his intelligence work. Everything appears to be coming up roses for the two until shortly after their daughter’s first birthday, Max’s superiors inform him that they have strong reason to believe that Marianne was never a part of the French resistance but in fact is a German spy.
Pitt and Cotillard play brilliantly off of each other (and if Angelina’s private investigator findings were accurate, ON TOP of each other as well, heyyy ooohhhhh….ok that was trash and I’m ashamed of myself). They both bring subtle nuances to their characters that, while not overpowering, are still quite effective in making you believe that these two strangers could fall for each other in a rather small period of time. As far as the sexual chemistry between them is concerned, the scene in which they finally decide to cross over from a professional relationship to a personal one is definitely memorable in how its shot and the setting it’s shot in but frankly is pretty tame. The secondary characters in Allied are fleshed out and performed well enough not to detract from the star power on full display but do little to stand out either. Jared Harris’s performance as Max’s immediate superior and friend, Frank, and Simon McBurney’s brief but intense performance as the head of “V Section” are the exceptions. Lizzy Caplan plays Max’s lesbian sister Margaret, a character that feels like it should be in an entirely different movie. She has so little screen time it makes me wonder if there was more of her in the film that just didn’t make the final edit. Story-wise, Allied takes the first 30 minutes or so to set up the hook, then spends the rest of its run time teasing you, prodding you and at a decent pace, guides you towards a tension-filled emotion-drenched conclusion while peppering in well-timed bits of action and heart-string plucking sentiment. As far as the ending goes, without giving away any spoilers, I found it satisfying. Personally, I don’t like it when movies tell me the moral of their story at the end, especially when there was plenty of evidence throughout the movie where you showed me already but I will give Allied a pass on this because of its solid presentation leading up to it.
With all this said, what REALLY got me about this movie was the cascade of relationship questions that it provokes and leaves you with after the credits are done. Should a loss or betrayal of trust by one or both parties in a relationship doom it to failure? How much of a betrayal does it take for that to happen? What if there’s no definitive proof of such a betrayal? Is going into a relationship with a self-serving agenda okay if said agenda doesn’t directly affect the other partner in a negative way? Does parenthood somehow earn you more wiggle room when it comes to forgiveness? If the offending party is super f*cking hot does that make it all okay? As a divorced man in his early 40’s (very early, super duper hyper early 40’s) who holds the hope of someday soon entering into a healthy long-term romantic relationship the themes of love and trust in Allied stood out and spoke to me, and when a movie presents its themes that way, I give it my reviewer love in return.
Yes, go see this in theaters right now! In fact, if you have one, see this with your significant other. Enjoy the romance, the tension, and the emotion it provides then go home and make sweet sweet love to him or her appreciating the fragile yet brilliant joy you both share as committed partners and then, while you’re basking in the gentle fog of coital bliss, think about (in excruciating detail) every shady or questionable thing they’ve ever said or done to you and wonder if deep deep down…they’ve been playing you for a fool all along…
RATING: 3.5 STARS (out of 5)
WHAT YOU CAN WATCH ALONG WITH (OR INSTEAD OF) THIS:
The 2005 Brad Pitt betrayal movie that started it all, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. It’s also a pretty fun and charming action movie to be fair.