Zemeckis is known for the 80s cult classic Back to the Future, and the iconic, oft-quoted Forrest Gump. It’s a filmography of strangely juxtaposed passions – ambitious special effects and weepy melodrama.
Allied sits uncomfortably on the fence between the two, unpredictably veering from intense conversations to bizarre action scenes, and failing to satisfy either.
Brad Pitt plays stoic Canadian Max Vatan sent undercover to Casablanca to play husband-and-wife with a member of the French Resistance, in order to assassinate the German Ambassador to Morocco. Their romantic pretence doesn’t stay fake for long, and they end up in London with the threat of lies hanging over their relationship.
The Moroccan preamble takes up the first third of the film, and must have given Zemeckis a great excuse for a holiday, since its dramatisation is inexplicable. It’s a long, slow, way to set the scene, and it fails completely in its job to establish the relationship between Vatan and his partner Marianne Beauséjour (the ever-capable Marian Cotillard).
Soon Casablanca becomes a romantic whirlwind in their pasts. It would have been more effective to allow us to imagine this history, since its details become quickly irrelevant.
While Beauséjour slips effortlessly into all her required roles, Vatan is apparently a bad spy, whose poor Parisian accent is a potential problem for the mission. It is simply unbelievable that anyone so inept would ever find themselves in his position, let alone that Beauséjour would find him alluring.
Perhaps Cotillard simply out acts Pitt, but the problem also lies in Zemeckis’s wrestling with history to suit his concept. The Second World War setting is irrelevant, serving only to let Pitt heroically slaughter Hollywood’s favourite villains, the Nazis and throw a jazzy party.
Zemeckis has tried so hard to make an iconic film, full of memorable scenes and majestic shots, that he forgot to include a believable plot or render an effective atmosphere.
Allied has the same gaudy, anachronistic glitz as the adverts for Audi and Armani which ran before it, and the temporal and geographical leaps only make its scenes more disjointed. Cotillard’s performance is an evident redeeming feature as is Steven Knight’s script when his rewarding subtleties aren’t obliterated by Zemickis.
Allied is an exhausting farce, and offers us nothing that a cosy rewatch of Casablanca couldn’t offer, plus some.