The only unexpected part of Allied is that director Robert Zemeckis didn't shoot it in black and white. The film is so steeped in the glossy nostalgia of World War II romance movies that it actually spends its opening act in Casablanca, which is littered with Nazis, no less. But any hope that this is the beginning of a beautiful romantic thriller is nixed when the characters and storyline culminate at—you guessed it—an airfield.
On a secret assignment for the Brits, renowned Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) rendezvouses in Morocco with Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), a savvy French resistance fighter. Max and Marianne's vocations have left them staunchly celibate. Posing as a married couple while undercover, they spend their evenings on the rooftop of their safe house—that's supposedly where men in Casablanca post-coitally retire.
The sexual tension between Max and Marianne remains unrequited until after they carry out their mission, in which they go Inglourious Basterds on a German ambassador and his Nazi dinner party. Sex in a sandstorm follows their getaway, and suddenly, Max pops the question and asks Marianne to settle down with him in London.
Marital life brings an odd change in personalities. The taciturn Max becomes a chatty, love-struck hubby; the coldblooded Marianne adopts the role of happy hostess and homemaker, even giving birth under the canopy of a computer-generated Blitz. In contrast with much of Zemeckis's PG-rated filmography, there's lots of conspicuous chatter about "fucking" in this R-rated, war-torn milieu, a London where the only reprieve from air raids is drunken carousing.
Max's domestic bliss is shattered when a SOE spook (Simon McBurney, regrettably given just one scene) reveals his belief that Marianne is an imposter who is sending secrets to Germany. British intelligence needs only seventy-two hours to feed her counterintelligence and see if it pops up on intercepted wires. But Max, confident of his wife's loyalty, can't wait that long and launches his own fact-finding mission.
Despite its gossamer buildup, Allied eventually reaches the zenith for any thriller: the moment where the denouement could go in any of a half-dozen directions, and viewers don't know what's liable to happen. Unfortunately, Zemeckis's banal impulses squander this crucial juncture. He and screenwriter Steven Knight opt for a Spielbergian climax that feels mercilessly focus-grouped, craning their necks in search of sunbathed, undeserved redemption.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Play It Again, Brad."