A Canadian intelligence officer and French Resistance fighter join forces in this 

old-fashioned, hopelessly romantic WWII drama.



They'll always have London: Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt


Having dispensed with his fair share of Nazis in Inglourious Basterds and Fury, Brad Pitt returns to the Second World War for his latest star vehicle. But this is a very different war. There are Nazis, sure, but the film feels steeped in another era, when shoot-outs clasped hands with romantic clinches in the heat of the moment. Think Suite Française (2014). Think Hanover Street (1979). Think Casablanca (1942).


Brad Pitt plays Max Vatan, a Canadian intelligence officer who is parachuted into French Morocco in 1942. There he meets up with Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), a French Resistance fighter who has been assigned to pose as his wife. Together they are to take out a high-ranking Nazi ambassador. But first they have to establish their credentials. Marianne is a meticulous operator and has staked out the Casablanca social scene and when Max arrives from Paris she is positively prescriptive in the romantic script they are to follow. Men in Morocco sleep on the roof after making love; Max’s French accent is to be honed; he is even told when to kiss her… Inevitably, one thing leads to another and Max and Marianne consummate their deception in the desert – in a car, in a sandstorm.


Robert Zemeckis’s Allied is hopelessly romantic and old-fashioned and it comes as quite a surprise that Marianne never suggests “we’ll always have Paris.” The sets also look like sets (digital or otherwise) and the film seems to crawl nowhere until it suddenly shifts into another gear. However, there is an early sequence in which Max’s prowess at cards is tested by a suspicious Nazi: after a beat, Brad Pitt picks up the proffered pack and dazzles us with his shuffling legerdemain. The opening shot – almost as striking as the one that kicked off The English Patient – shows an empty desert until Brad Pitt’s legs cut through the frame, followed by his parachute. It reminds us what a consummate filmmaker Robert Zemeckis is – his opening to Forrest Gump remains a classic – and there are a number of dazzling sequences.


But in spite of strong turns from Pitt and Cotillard, the film never exerts a sense of real life. The combat in Fury felt real, the romantic torment between Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander in The Light Between Oceans almost as much. Maybe Brad Pitt is too familiar a face to let us suspend our disbelief. When Max exhibits his French, it’s Brad Pitt showing off. The stars are perhaps just too beautiful, too perfect. When the action switches to London, the story takes another turn and the dramatic pay-off, when it comes, does hit the solar plexus. But it still feels like a magic trick, however masterfully performed. For the film’s intended audience, that may be enough. After all, there will be tears.




Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Simon McBurney, Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode, Anton Lesser, August Diehl, Daniel Betts, Marion Bailey.


Dir Robert Zemeckis, Pro Graham King, Steve Starkey and Robert Zemeckis, Screenplay Steven Knight, Ph Don Burgess, Pro Des Gary Freeman, Ed Mick Audsley and Jeremiah O'Driscoll, Music Alan Silvestri, Costumes Joanna Johnston.


GK Films/ImageMovers-Paramount Pictures.

124 mins. USA/UK. 2016. Rel: 25 November 2016. Cert. 15.