‘Allied’ ends with a whimper that fails to spoil the beauty of this WWII movie

‘Allied’ ends with a whimper that fails to spoil the beauty of this WWII movie


Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Rated: R

I think of “Allied” more as a moving company than a World War II romantic thriller, so I do have a quibble about the title. Nothing about it says lush, gorgeously filmed and costumed homage to the grand era of those classic black/white movies that starred all of the matinee idols of the day.

This film, which I’ll suggest might have better titled “Alliance,” stars one of our own matinee idols of the day, Brad Pitt, albeit with his star a little tarnished after recent events involving his not-so-private life. But he is in fine form here — suave and impeccably dressed — as is French actress Marion Cotillard in her delicious ’40a ensembles. Together they create the kind of Bogart/Bergman chemistry that makes director Robert Zemeckis’s love letter to these war romances succeed.

Speaking of Casablanca, writer Stephen Knight sets the first act there as Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan (Pitt) parachutes into the desert and makes his way to the city. His mission is not yet revealed, but it involves masquerading as the husband of French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard). They whisper of the risks they are taking as they strike loving poses for her nosy neighbors and plot their strategy, which requires him to secure an invitation to the German ambassador’s upcoming cocktail reception.

The mission is executed in a hail of bullets followed by a great escape by the couple, who by now, despite the risks of a completely different nature both are taking, have really fallen for each other. Vatan’s hasty proposal as the two are fleeing Morocco leads to the second half of the movie set in London, just after the heaviest days of the Blitz.

Max is now working out of headquarters there, reporting to his superior Heslop (played by Jared Harris of “The Crown” and “Mad Men”), while Marianne contently plays wife and mother to their 1-year-old daughter. For about five minutes, it all seems so domestic, but then Max is given an ultimatum by his boss that he finds almost impossible to accept.

To reveal more would spoil the good old-fashion intrigue that follows, but there is plenty of mistrust and paranoia to go around as Vatan tries desperately to prove what is true and what is false. Here, the movie begins to tear softly as Vatan engages in some truly stupid, reckless behavior that puts a lot of people in harm’s way, a selfish act that a seasoned RAF officer would probably think better before doing.

And when the ending arrives, it lacks the resonance of deeply felt emotion needed for the audience to buy into the gut-wrenching decisions the characters must make. For whatever reason, it’s difficult to pinpoint why this feels emotionally truncated, and trying to assign blame would not be fair because so much of the movie works beautifully. But it lands with all the punch of an anemic bantamweight boxer rather than the wallop of a heavyweight champ.