Brad Pitt Marion Cottiard Jared Harris Lizzie Caplan Matthew Goode
“Marriages made in the field never work”, so says Max’s superior on learning that Max (Pitt) and Marianne (Cottiard) have gotten married. The two were partners in a successful operation that killed a German ambassador during WWII. The statement is prophetic, but not in any way Max suspects. Nevertheless, the couple seems very happy together, they have a child, and except for Max being called away frequently for work, their life is golden.
The film begins with the first meeting of Max and Marianne in Casablanca, Morocco, where they have to convince everyone in the community that they are married and are uniting after a long separation. In truth they are British and French spies who are charged with a critical operation. It’s interesting to see this introduction, as I imagine it’s a true reflection of the awkwardness that agents must experience when they are pulling off an act with someone they’ve never met before. Marianne seems more experienced than Max—she has certainly been in Casablanca for a longer time, and since she is charismatic and very social, she has made many friends. He doesn’t seem to mind; when he is put to the test of being a card shark in order to be invited to a party, his assets are quickly apparent.
Things seem to float along; Max is promoted and Marianne seems entirely fulfilled with her role as homemaker and mother. Then some earth-shattering news (for them) arrives, and Max is in a major dilemma. That’s when the cat-and-mouse game really starts, for despite his instructions to do nothing, Max can’t help doing some investigating on his own.
The script by Steven Knight (who also wrote Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises, and Locke, which he also directed) is layered and nuanced, and the central, ultimate conflict is intriguing, both in its conception and in its resolution. Unlike Knight’s previous film, Locke, which was an ingenious account of a man in a car on the telephone, Allied contains some artificialities in some of the scenes that detract from its plausibility, e.g., the couple’s baby being born in a building while it is being bombed, and an operation to extract information from a man in jail resulting in numerous killings). These are unnecessary exaggerations. It may be that the director, Robert Zemeckis, who nevertheless has fine work to his credit, and/or the producers wanted to hype up the story, which results in my reaction of “Oh, c’mon!" But this is not a major detraction.
Marion Cottiard carries off the role of a spy to perfection and with real heart. At one point her character states that she is so good at what she does because she uses genuine emotions. And that is what Cottiard does in acting; we’re drawn to the charisma and quick wit she infuses into her characters. Brad Pitt is…well, Brad Pitt is so known to us because of all the publicity he gets in his personal life, that it may interfere with our seeing the character. It was Brad before me the whole time rather than Max the character. On the other hand, he is usually a very good actor, and perhaps the filming of Allied occurred during a stressful time in his personal life, which could have affected his performance. I thought the chemistry just wasn’t completely there between Max and Marianne.
A spy thriller with imaginatively conceived intrigue.