Review: “Allied”

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“Based on a true story”: it’s a mantra familiar to anybody who watches films of the War genre, especially those who love their World War II movies. Most people know what to expect when they read those words, so to see a film without them is a welcome change. Though it has an original story, Allied isn’t as exciting as it should be.

Royal Canadian Air Force serviceman Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is parachuted into the Moroccan desert at the height of the Second World War. His mission on this occasion is to meet with a member of the French special service, Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) to carry out an assassination on the German ambassador. As part of their mission, the two must pretend to be husband and wife so as not to draw the suspicion of Germany’s occupying forces.

Though the two initially agree not to become romantically involved, by mission’s end they have fallen in love, with Max asking Marianne for her hand in marriage. Within two years, the couple have wed, given birth to a daughter and are living in suburban London – apart from the occasional air raid, their life is a happy and normal one. That is, until Max learns from his superiors that Marianne is suspected of being a German spy.

With a synopsis like this, one could be lead to believe that Allied is tense and engaging, or that the fictitious storyline would aid in generating an air of suspense. If only this were the case – for much of the plot our protagonists meander, and any threat presented to them is dealt with quickly and swiftly. Even when they’re in occupied territory, it never feels like Max and Marianne are in any sense of danger.

Even so, the film’s central conflict is enough to draw in the viewer, and might even leave one pondering what they would do in the same situation. Max is plagued with uncertainty about his wife, doing whatever he can to prove his fears are unfounded. It’s at this point in the movie – well into the second act – that it starts to become gripping, and it continues to be so until the very end.

Action sequences are few and far between, but what’s there will please most viewers. These scenes aren’t particularly creative or unique, just a welcome distraction from the slowly-paced plot. Also drawing attention away from the story is the production design, which is pretty impressive. With era-appropriate clothing and convincingly detailed sets, one could be forgiven for thinking it actually was the Forties.

Some might see this as a positive in the movie’s favour. This reviewer begs to differ. If a film’s production values are more interesting than the story it is trying to tell, it can hardly be classed as entertainment. And, outside of what has already been mentioned, the film has no merits or extraordinary features. In an awards season that has given us delights such as La La Land and Arrival, this picture looks painfully average by comparison.

Despite it having an interesting premise, the execution of Allied is mediocre at best. Fleeting moments of action and neat presentation are enough to save it from being bad, yet a lack of excitement prevents it from being great.

2.5 stars

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