So many World War II movies center around American soldiers and the actual fighting, that it is refreshing to see one about the actual operatives in the Resistance and what happens when they come back to England in the RAF. Max Vaten (Brad Pitt; Interview with a Vampire, Oceans Eleven franchise) is a Canadian in the Royal Air Force and parachutes into 1942 French Morocco to meet up with a French Resistance fighter, Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard; The Immigrant, Two Days, One Night) to kill a German Ambassador. As it becomes apparent that the undertaking is a probable suicide mission, Max and Marianne take their working relationship to an extreme marked only by the impending sandstorm that materializes right before your eyes on screen.
While the climax of the movie seems to be the assassination of the German Ambassador, that assassination is simply a red herring. High on life, Max asks Marianne to come back to London with him. Marriage and baby follow on each other's heels and the couple seems happy with their daughter, Anna, in London, until the unthinkable happens, and causes Max to doubt his entire marriage. Desperate in love, he grapples with the thought of betrayal in contrast with his gut feeling of loyalty. Max goes against everything his position in the RAF taught him, as his character and loyalties are tested along more than one line.
Brad Pitt's acting was unusually stiff and formal. While his character, Max, was also reserved, Pitt didn't seem to realize the depths of Max's emotions until the very end of the movie and while that may have been intentional, Pitt's natural warmth seemed to be missing. A better choice for reserved Max may have been an actor like Ben Affleck, who is usually seen in these types of roles. Despite that, Pitt has a solid performance and his emotional coming out at the end was fabulous and real and should not go unnoticed by the Academy.
Marion Cotillard, in contrast to Pitt, was not only brilliant but absolutely believable. Cotillard reflected such emotion that the character of Marianne was completely believable. The suspicion and empathy her character required the audience to have for her was natural. The role was made for Cotillard. Her acting was effortless. Her last scene, while shocking, is worthy of an Oscar, displaying all emotions of a woman, wife, and mother in a few minutes.
Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future; Polar Express) did a fabulous job directing. While definitely not Casablanca, Allied flowed from one setting to the next, with scenes unfolding effortlessly. Playing cards being shuffled, a baby born in the middle of an air raid, and Max watching his wife through a haze of mirrors are characteristic of Zemeckis' trademark. Despite all of that, sadly, there was no compensation for Pitt's mostly flat performance and the lack of chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard.
The ending of this dramatic espionage film is almost foreseeable, yet it's still shocking when it finally happens. Allied is a refreshing alternative movie in a world of ever growing superhero and fantasy movies. Despite some obvious flaws, Allied is a movie not to be missed while in theaters.