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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Movie Review: #Allied

Allied isn't quite the Oscar lock that we were hoping.

Review by Matt Cummings

There's a moment in Director Robert Zemeckis' Allied when Marion Cotillard's character turns to husband-to-be Brad Pitt and utters, "I keep the emotions real. That's why it works." Sadly, Zemeckis fails to listen to his own script, crafting a fairly dull spy thriller that really isn't all that thrilling, or tense, and generates exactly zero heat between the couple or even in its final scene.

WWII operative Max (Pitt) is paired with the steamy Marianne (Cotliard) in an assassination operation in Morocco, finding love that sees Marianne moving to London to become a mom after the mission is completed. But when Max later learns that Marianne might be a German spy, he fights to both discover the truth and protect his family from having to make an impossible decision: assassinate his own wife.

For all the glamour behind Allied, Zemeckis doesn't exactly push his troupe, nor does the meandering script by Steven Knight set new standards for the genre, when all the pieces seemed there for something special. I was waiting for that one tense moment to move the story into Oscar territory, but that never materialized. And that's too bad, because Zemeckis has assembled a venerable group to tell his story. Pitt is older here but somehow more refined now, perhaps moving past his buddy George Clooney in the Cool category, while Cotliard is gorgeous and resonates with a magnetism that's made her so desirable for today's prestige pictures. Add a pseudo cameo in the form of Simon McBurney as an S.O.E. official, and you should have had an old-school spy gem. And although that's how it ends, that's not how it begins.

Allied suffers from a very slow beginning, taking too long to establish the relationship between Max and Marianne. Too many rooftop visits and too many moments of character development get in the way of the climax which is well shot but ultimately hollow. There's some genuine tension in that third act, forwarded by the suddenly re-emergent Zemeckis, who feels like he's not really in his element but does fairly well with the content. He has a great eye, crafting a memorable love-making scene in the desert and a gripping assassination in the first act, both of which prove he can resurrect some of that Back to the Future magic. And although it's now two misfires along with 2015's The Walk, it's great to see him back.

Writer Steven Knight is partially to blame for Allied's failure, failing to infuse any hint of romance or tension to provide Zemeckis a roadmap for success. Composer Alan Silverstri doesn't exactly wow us with his score either. Allied seems to have everything it needs to become an instant winner, and yet it just sits there expecting us to like it simply because we should.

Hampered by a listless script and a lack of real burn on the screen, Allied wants desperately to force you into Pitt's dilemma, but it never matures enough for us to feel anyting but missed opportunities. Performances range from 'seen that before' to 'wish I'd seen more of him' but you'll enjoy the totally fabricated production design, which seems to reflect the tone of recent Zemeckis productions.

Allied is rated R for violence, some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use and has a runtime of 124 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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