by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday November 23, 2016

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard star in 'Allied'
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard star in 'Allied'  

With "Allied," Robert Zemeckis delivers a stylish WWII thriller that would have been right at home in the 1940s.

Brad Pitt plays Wing Commander Max Vatan, a native of Ontario who finds himself serving in the Royal Air Force. He poses as a phosphorus miner on holiday in Casablanca with a member of the French resistance, Marianne Beausťjour (Marion Cotillard) taking the role of his glamorous wife, but their mission is much more serious than a desert lark: They're tasked with assassinating a German ambassador.

There's nothing like a political killing -- and a sweeping desert landscape -- to get the juices flowing; before they've even accomplished the killing the two have fallen madly in love. Once the nasty business is accomplished, and Max is safely back in London, he petitions to have Marianne vetted and cleared for immigration, so the two of them can wed.

A year later, the two have a daughter and have settled into a tidy little house. But Max's superiors have begun to suspect that Marianne might not be who she says she is -- in fact, they worry that she's a German spy using what tidbits of intel she can glean from Max to keep her handlers informed. After planting disinformation that they can use to trace the leak back to Marianne, Max's bosses have to wait for a period of three days to see what surfaces in intercepted communiques they've been monitoring. If the fake tidbit they've provided is among the weekend's dispatches, they'll know for sure that Marianne is working with the enemy.

But sitting still and waiting for the result isn't good enough for the anxious, itchy Max, who has to act normal at home while pursuing a variety of avenues and back channels in order to arrive at the truth on his own. You can see why he's so worked up: The rules of the spy community evidently have a clause for "intimate betrayal" that includes murdering a politically disloyal spouse with one's own hands.

But as Max digs deeper, dead ends and conflicting bits of evidence only increase his bewilderment. Then, too, there is always the possibility that the nightmare scenario he finds himself in is only a false front for something completely different...

Zemeckis and screenwriter Steven Knight tread a carefully wrought path that negotiates between wartime drama, spy-thriller potboiler, and domestic fluff, while steering well clear of comedy (this is, thankfully, not a fresh spin on "Mr. and Mrs. Smith"). Underneath it all, this is a good old-fashioned romance, and with two lead actors who belong in a world class of looks and talent how can it go wrong? The material is given aplomb thanks to superb production design (and costuming: This film is a fashion plate's wet dream), and there's just enough melodrama to enliven the film's built-in sense of nostalgia.

At the same time, modern camerawork and effects technology make this a state of the art cinematic experience, complete with exceptional sound design. There will be Oscar nods -- not so much for the sexy categories (Actor, Actress, Director) but more for the technical categories. That's fine. It all adds up to a satisfying period piece. See, they do sometimes still make 'em like that.



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Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.