Whoever coined the term, “all’s fair in love and war,” didn’t account for the love affair of two wartime spies, which, as you can imagine, complicates things considerably. You’ve heard of marriage under false pretenses, but nothing quite like this.
“Allied” is essentially split into two films—two romances, yet the same two characters. In the first, Brad Pitt is a Canadian spy, sent to the cinematic hallowed ground of Casablanca to meet up with another spy, played by Marion Cotillard, with whom he is designated to play house. Pitt is mild-mannered, unsociable and prone to sudden acts of violence, whereas Cotillard can play a room, bouncing from one clique to another, charming them to death. Their mission is to assassinate a German ambassador. Even though history frowns upon it, the two end up falling in love for real–with two good-looking people living together in Casablanca, anything else would be absurd. Thus begins the second film, in which their romance becomes legitimate, or does it? Two masters of mind games, liars by trade—to put it mildly, trust issues arise.
With a premise this nutty, a film can get bogged down in dramatics, and I’d be lying if I told this film doesn’t bite. If you thought the car sex scene from “Titanic” was ridiculous, wait until you see Pitt and Cotillard make love in their coupe during a sandstorm, at which time the camera encircles them like they’re a Super Bowl trophy. If I was to defend this moment, however, I might say that each sex scene in the film symbolizes their relationship in a particular condition, the outlandish sandstorm sex representing the outlandish exceptions of new love. Even so, it’s still silly.
At other times, the bombastic visuals are more captivating, such as when Cotillard gives birth in the middle of an air-raid. Robert Zemeckis’ admiration for the time period–or the movies of the time period, at least–is infectious, from the quietly seductive outfits to the double entendres that civility breeds.
This high stakes game of he said/she said is generally effective, particularly in a wild house party, where Pitt is bombarded by hints, possibilities and distractions, only to have a German bomber nearly fly into his house and put everything into perspective. This isn’t Pitt’s best showing—every time he’s onscreen, it look like he’s just woke up. Cotillard, on the other hand, is fantastic in a role that requires duplicity in the smallest of actions. I won’t spoil the moment, but there’s a brief instance where she’s in a car with her child, anxiously awaiting one of two people to exit a house—her face says a lot of things, but it doesn’t tell you which she’s waiting for.
As I left the theater, I had that line from Paul Simon’s “The Boxer” ricocheting off the walls of my head: “all lies and jest, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” “Allied” is built on lies and jest, but isn’t that what a movie is? A big lie we all choose to believe. And in playing spies who pretend to be in love, aren’t Pitt and Cotillard playing actors? Is “Allied” really about movies, or something else entirely? Hear what you want to hear.
3.5 out of 5 stars