This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
Ever since “Saving Private Ryan” ushered in heretofore unheard-of levels of gruesome and graphic detail to its World War II combat sequences, pretty much every WWII film that has been produced since then, right up to the recent “Hacksaw Ridge,” has gone to great lengths to stress the horrors of combat and its intense physical and psychological pressures. (Yes, “Inglourious Basterds” was a significant exception to this rule but I think we can all agree that strict historical fidelity was not high on that film’s agenda.) That is all well and good but would Hollywood ever again produce the kind of WWII movie that they used to make back in the day—the kind that mixed together action, politics, drama, humor and romance as enacted by impossibly glamorous movie stars? “Allied,” the new film from Robert Zemeckis, is just that kind of film.
While it may not quite be the modern-day “Casablanca,” it is nevertheless a grandly entertaining stab at old-fashioned storytelling (albeit with levels of sex, violence and profanity that they could never have gotten away with back in the day) buoyed by smart and stylish filmmaking, a good performance by Brad Pitt and an even better one from Marion Cotillard.
As the film opens in 1942, Pitt's Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan parachutes into North Africa and makes his way to Casablanca. His mission is to assassinate the German ambassador with the help of Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard), a French Resistance fighter who will be posing as his wife and who has gotten herself into the good graces of the local Nazi bigwigs. Over the course of the next few days, they prepare themselves for the mission while trying to establish themselves as a loving married couple so as not to arouse any suspicion. Something does get aroused between the two of them despite their professional attitudes, culminating in one of the more intriguingly staged love scenes of recent memory. With that out of the way, they complete their mission in an equally spectacular manner. During their escape, Max asks Marianne to return to London with him so that they can get married.
The story picks up a year later with Max and Marianne married and living in London with their infant daughter in as much bliss as one could possibly hope for during wartime. That all comes to an abrupt end when he is called into headquarters and informed by an officious S.O.E. official (Simon McBurney) that there's evidence suggesting that the real Marianne Beausejour was killed a couple of years earlier and that his wife is actually a German spy. Max cannot believe this but the evidence, while not quite conclusive, is fairly damning. To settle the question once and for all, he is ordered to leave some fake information lying around where she can find it—if it turns up in the next intercepted German communique, she is guilty. If she does turn out to be a spy, Max is required to kill her. If he refuses or tries to tip her off, it will lead to his execution as well. To make matters even more discomfiting, not only is Max not allowed to investigate on his own during the three days it will take to get the potentially damning evidence, he has to go on with Marianne and pretend everything is normal.