In mid-December, Brad Pitt will celebrate his 51th birthday. No longer the “hottie” who fired the loins of women across America in Thelma &Louse in his late ‘20’s, Pitt’s career has nevertheless provided audiences with a remarkable range of cinematic portraits: buffed pugilist (Fight Club, 1999) Greek god (Troy, 2004) suave con artist (Oceans’ Eleven, 2001) off-beat baseball manager (Moneyball, 2011) Civil War abolitionist (12 Years a Slave, 2013) and grizzled investment contrarian, (The Big Short, 2015). Along the way, he’s earned his share of brickbats as well, two of which involved his wife and co-star Angelina Jolie. Yet over the past quarter century he’s skillfully chosen roles designed to allow him to age sensibly without actually appearing older…a neat trick in an industry that savages those who try too aggressively to manage their battles with Father Time. But in this labored effort to recreate a piece of 1940’s nostalgia, Pitt seems as physically dated as the rest of this irredeemable melodrama which also wastes the considerable skills of co-star Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose, Rust & Bone). Despite the involvement of A-list director Robert Zemeckis and the brilliant screenwriter Steven Knight, Allied‘s as tough to swallow as a week-old bagel.
The plot’s ingenious enough; Max Vatan, a French-speaking Canadian in England’s secret service, parachutes into Algiers on a secret mission in the middle of WWII. He’s assigned a seductive but fictitious French wife named Marianne who joins him in successfully assassinating a German official. Reunited later in London, the couple fall in love, marry and have a baby girl. Everything goes smoothly until British intelligence insists it has uncovered information indicating that Marianne’s a German spy leaking information to the Gestapo. Max angrily rejects this assertion and risks his career and life only to discover things about his adoring spouse that just don’t add up…
Brisk pacing and a script that didn’t take itself too seriously might have allowed Allied to be the fast-paced celluloid thriller it was obviously intended to be, but Zemeckis – normally a genius at not letting things dawdle - makes this two hour and four minute movie seem twice as long. From a ludicrously tedious seduction scene set in the back seat of a vintage car in the middle of a sandstorm to the delivery of Marianne’s baby in the courtyard of a London hospital in the middle of a German bombing blitz to Max’s interrogation of a member of the French resistance behind enemy lines, Allied’s storyline becomes as tangled as a string of Christmas tree lights and Knight’s script adds verbal insult to plot’s injury by supplying his leads with cringe-worthy dialogue.
Knight, the English writer/producer whose screenplay credits include Eastern Promises, DirtyPretty Things, the impossibly brilliant one-man tour de force by Tom Hardy in Locke as well as British T.V.’s series Peaky Blinders, knows how to write lines for his actors that fit the time frame of the plot’s story. Yet Allied’s soap-opera dialogue sounds pompous rather than serious and the voiced-over coda that ends the film succeeds only in capping the stilted with the smarmy.
Despite the gorgeous look of Zemeckis’ cinematography and the movie’s outstanding production values, Allied is beautiful to look at but excruciating to sit through.
The Verdict? Wrong on so many levels that it’s unimaginable it could be the work of so many outstandingly talented people.
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