Upon departing the preview screening of Allied, my discerning companion praised its cinematography and set design.
Such singling out of a film’s production values is not usually a healthy sign. Certainly Allied is to be commended on its impeccably styled visuals – everything within this finely researched, period-perfect world as crafted by director Robert Zemeckis looks seductively, and potentially deceptively, beautiful.
From the moment Canadian pilot Max Vatan (Pitt) parachutes into the desert dunes of French Morocco our eyes are having tricks played on them. As shot from above, we watch as Max floats downwards towards the sand, anticipating his landing, continually misjudging the precise moment at which it will happen.
Assumedly there is some trademark Zemeckis CGI wizardry at play here, in what is the first of many such flourishes paying homage to Hitchcock. The other most notable reference to classic Hollywood (not least for the setting) is Casablanca.
To Pitt’s Bogart is Marion Cotillard’s Bergman. She plays Marianne Beauséjour, a French freedom fighter who is partnered with Max on mission to assassinate a Nazi, but those details aren’t of much importance.
What matters is their ability to fool everyone that they are happily married, which they do so well in fact, that they do become happily married, have a baby and enjoy the bohemian lifestyle that blitzed (and strangely blissed) out London affords.
The only slight hiccup is that Marianne might be a German spy, meaning that if true, Max must execute her by his own hand. And therein lies the suspense mystery that Allied attempts to be.
While not failing completely in meeting that objective, the film certainly does fall short of realising its full dramatic potential. Much of that is to do with Pitt’s underwhelming performance and the subsequent lack of chemistry between him and Cotillard (easily the better of the two).
Allied is nevertheless a nod to the good old–fashioned storytelling and beautifully crafted filmmaking of classic Hollywood, which can’t be a bad thing.
Rated M, Allied is in cinemas from Monday, December 26