Mr. and Mrs. Smith this is not. And whether or not you enjoy Allied could be directly proportional to how anticipatory or disappointed that statement makes you.
Allied is a WWII spy picture following Canadian in the RAF intelligence officer and pilot Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) and French Resistance spy Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard). They meet in 1942 when they’re assigned to assassinate the German ambassador in German-occupied Casablanca.
Right now, at least half of you are thinking of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Hold that thought – we’ll get back to it.
Max and Marianne work well together as they navigate the waters she’s already primed for them as “husband and wife”. Their mission is the first third of the movie, and it’s interesting to see them adapting to each other and prepping to potentially die – Max puts their chances of surviving the mission at 40%. They break the cardinal rule and have sex, since they might die the next day.
Only, they don’t die, and Max is totally smitten. So is Marianne. He heads back to London and requests that she be allowed to come to England. The S.O.E. (aka the spy division) approves her to come in, and the two of them get married. Marianne is already pregnant, though if she got pregnant in Casablanca or elsewhere, and when they knew this isn’t clear.
So, the Vatan family settles down to desk job bliss, since Max doesn’t want to be risking if he can avoid it and Marianne is pregnant and then has a child to care for. Things seems like they’re going well – even when Marianne has to deliver the baby during a bombing raid that hits the hospital, Max is right there with her and all is well.
Marianne is somewhat infamous in spy circles as being brave and effective, but things went wrong for her during an operation in Paris where she managed to escape with her life. Or did she?
The last two-thirds of the movie and the crux of Allied is not actually the war or the mission or family life during wartime, but whether or not Marianne is actually who she says she is. And what Max will have to do if she is actually a German double agent. And what lengths Max is willing to go to in order to determine her guilt or innocence.
I loved Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Brad Pitt and Angela Jolie had crazy chemistry, the script sparkled, the action was great with just the right amount of humor and romance, and movie’s conclusion was totally satisfying. In this movie, Pitt and Cotillard have okay chemistry, and the movie is about married spies, but otherwise, the similarities aren’t there.
The hubs went with me for this one and we had some similar reactions to things, but he really enjoyed this movie and I didn’t all that much. The movie is beautifully shot, the costuming is fantastic, the sets are completely realistic, the acting is first rate. But, for me, it was slow and rather ponderous, and when we got to the end I asked, “What was the point of this movie?”
The hubs, on the other hand, loves a good tragedy (one of his all-time favorite movies is Kenneth Branagh’s Othello, which might tell you all you need to know right there). He’s also big into the romances, as long as they’re full of sadness – so, he adores Casablanca, he thought the ending to the 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean movie was awesome, and he really FELT for Rose in Titanic. By comparison, I think Casablanca is fine but if I’d been Ilsa I might have chosen differently, I found the idea of stranding Elizabeth, the Pirate Queen!, on a desert island for life to be outrageous, and I loathed Rose beyond belief.
And this movie definitely falls on the romantic tragedy side of the house. In other words, the hubs really enjoyed it and would happily watch it again. And I, the person who’d been looking forward to this movie, found myself wishing I’d taken a different movie and had spent my two hours doing something else.
I must stress – Allied is not a BAD movie. As said before, it’s very well done, though I have some complaints with the script and the editing. But I’ve ignored worse in other movies, because those movies entertained me. However, for me, this movie was a disappointment.
In terms of the editing, there are scenes that do nothing much to move the movie forward that go on for far too long. All the way through the movie. The first time it happened I chose to think it was to help us get a feeling of place. But as two long hours dragged on, I just decided that the movie was going for languid versus urgent. Rarely have I watched a spy picture or a war picture that aims to be slow versus taught, but Allied definitely wanted you to have breathers between the action scenes.
Another choice that pulled me out of the movie and made me consider all the technical aspects instead of being in the scene was the first time Max and Marianne make love. They’re inside a car during a haboob, and the camera is circling them. It circles so much I honestly wondered if I was going to get dizzy.
There wasn’t a lot of point to this scene going on and on, either. Cotillard keeps her bra on (we’ve seen side-boob earlier anyway), and we do get a glimpse of Pitt’s butt. This wasn’t worth the camera zooming around them for what felt like five minutes. It probably wasn’t five minutes in reality, but as we finally panned out and the sand whipped across the back window, all I could think of was that this was this movie’s version of the curtains blowing to show that the couple are doing the deed. In a movie from 1942, sure, okay. In a movie from 2016, this just seemed like an archaic touch that wasn’t necessary. I have a feeling it was meant to be romantic.
The other issue for me was the script and the plot holes written into it. The British intelligence group vets Marianne before she’s allowed into England. They take three weeks to do it, too, and Max is told that the vetting has been thorough. So, when the S.E.O. officer comes to share that they think that the real Marianne is dead and that the Germans replaced her with a skilled lookalike, I waited for Max to shout that they’d already done the due diligence on his beloved wife and come up with nothing. But he never, ever brings this up. Keep in mind that we have an entire scene DEVOTED to our being told that Marianne’s been vetted, and yet, when it matters, no one, not Max nor his superior who’s in the room, bring it up.
The other big plot hole is that Max is told that IF Marianne is indeed a spy, he’ll have to shoot her in the head to prove his loyalty to God and Country. If he doesn’t, then the RAF will kill them both.
Pause for a moment and think about this. You have a lead on someone who is potentially SO skilled at spy craft that she’s fooled the entire intelligence community for years. She truly appears to love her Canadian husband and their daughter and enjoys living in London. And it’s clear that Max loves and adores her. Who in their right mind would tell the husband that if the wife’s a traitor he has to kill her? What lunatic came up with that ludicrous clause?
The same person who came up with the idea of NOT suggesting that they catch Marianne in the act of spying and FLIP HER. Which is, let’s be honest, what any self-respecting spy organization would be interested in doing. If she’s the double agent they think she is, then she’s perfectly placed to be flipped back to the side of right and helping her husband.
There is no discussion of this. It’s not even ever suggested. That’s right. All these intelligence officers hanging about and NO ONE – not Max, not his superior, not the S.E.O. slimeball – ever suggests that, hey, what if we see if we can make her a triple agent? Nope, it’s, “Prove she is or isn’t, and once we know, if she is, then you have to kill her. Have a nice day.”
Nor is the idea of trading her back to Germany for captured Allied soldiers or whomever forwarded. If it were me and someone was telling me that the hubs was a traitor and I was expected to kill him if he was proven to BE a traitor, I’d damn well be suggesting some alternate options before allowing the “shoot him in the head” option to be the only one we’re going with. Basically, any logical thought you’d have for what a person who doesn’t want his wife to have to die IF she’s a spy is never given the time of day. Maybe it was in the script but cut out in editing – one of the best lines, that’s in the movie’s trailer, wasn’t in the movie, so perhaps the logic was in the script and the director and/or editor removed it. In which case, shame on them.
I did some research to see if this was a “thing” back in the day. I couldn’t find any reference to it, other than as related to this movie. People were imprisoned for treason and being spies, but not all that many were executed, and none by their spouse. The entire movie’s sort of “based on a true story but probably not as true as anyone might think” plot hinges on this – that Max may have to kill Marianne due to the “Intimate Betrayal Rule” that the screenwriter was told about as a young man by a totally unreliable source and that nothing else out there substantiates – and it’s ridiculous if you think about it logically for even thirty seconds.
Max also has a sister who is an out and proud lesbian (I had no idea that the Brits were so casual about that in the early 1940’s) and yet there seems to be no reason for her and her girlfriend to even be in the picture. She hardly has any reason to be given screen time and stops mattering two thirds of the way through the movie (as in, isn’t brought up or seen again, despite there being logical reasons TO bring her up and see her again), and barely mattered at all. I’ve reviewed her role and the only lines she said that mattered even tangentially to the plot could have been said by any friend of Max’s.
So, now we come back to Casablanca, the WWII movie that’s considered by many, the hubs included, to be a perfect movie. This movie wants to be Casablanca – it’s there in a variety of subtle ways. But this movie is not Casablanca, and it’s not a real homage to it, either (but props for trying). Nor, as I said at the start, is it Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Because, while very different, both of those movies have no boring parts in them. (Note: if you hated Mr. and Mrs. Smith but liked Casablanca, you could find yourself enjoying Allied. Or you could be the hubs and like all three movies.)
There are parts of Allied that are exciting, parts that are romantic, parts that are beautiful, but also parts that are dull and nonsensical. All the parts are well-shot and well-acted and everything looks terrific. But for me the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
If you, like the hubs, like your romances with tragedy, you’re okay with a mostly languid storytelling style, and you just want to see beautiful people acting swell in exotic and exciting settings, gosh darn it, then Allied could be for you. But if you want a movie that keeps you going all the way through, with interesting people in exotic and exciting settings, that is more than the sum of its parts, and that has an ending that feels fully satisfying, then go for another viewing of either Casablanca or Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Rating: The Hubs – 4 Stars; Me – 2 Stars; averaged rating – 3 Stars
In 1942 North Africa, intelligence officer, Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) 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.
Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Screenplay: Steven Knight
Produced by: Graham King, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis