If you're in the mood for a trip back in time, you might want to check out "Allied." If not, then … well, I try to explain why in the review that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:
Maybe a half hour into “Allied,” Robert Zemeckis’ World War II study of spies in love, I had a thought. What if, I wondered, this movie had been made in, say, 1947?
And instead of Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard it starred Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman? And instead of Zemeckis it was directed by Michael Curtiz? Would the script, I asked myself, have required any major revisions?
Well no. Not really.
Oh, Curtiz – who worked in a Hollywood that held a stricter view of censorship – would have been forced to tone down the love scenes, especially one that features a brief side view of Cotillard’s bare breast. Same with the scene where Cotillard gives birth during an air raid.
But pretty much everything else? No changes necessary.
That tells you pretty much everything you need to know about “Allied,” the trailers for which have been playing in theaters for months. Based on an original idea from screenwriter Steven Knight – the British writer-producer whose previous work includes “Eastern Promises” and “Dirty Pretty Things” – “Allied” is a throwback project that feels every bit as old as World War II itself.
The film begins in 1942, in French Morocco. The Canadian operative Max Vatan (played by Pitt) has just parachuted into the desert and fairly quickly meets up with his partner, French resistance fighter Marianne Beauséjour (played by Cotillard). “Look for the hummingbird,” he is told. And so he does.
The couple’s mutual attraction is unmistakable, leading to a love scene set in a car during a desert sandstorm – which caused my brother to remark, “They share a nice big apartment, and they choose to make love in a cramped car?” Oh, but the sequence is so picturesque.
Flush from having successfully completed their mission, the two fall prey to biology and decide to continue their relationship in England. Marriage, pregnancy and the birth amid fire and bombs bursting in air ensue.
Then comes the complication: Max is told that Marianne may be a German spy. And he is given an ultimatum: Go along with a plan to trap her, or be executed as a traitor. Max is torn between duty and love, which leaves him only one option: Do what he can to prove Marianne’s innocence.
Having directed such films as “Forrest Gump,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “The Polar Express,” Zemeckis owns a well-earned reputation as a forward-thinking filmmaker. And when it comes to how “Allied” looks, he doesn’t disappoint. The effort is apparent in every frame.
Same with the performances. Pitt and Cotillard feel as if they have stepped out of the past, their emotional responses tied to an era when passion was a needed salve against the enduring threat of sudden death.
But until the final 15 minutes, nothing about “Allied” feels the slightest bit original. It’s as if the whole preceding hour and 50 minutes were merely a set-up for the finale.
Zemeckis has said in interviews that Hollywood doesn’t make this kind of movie anymore. Too true. And there’s an obvious reason why.
Just ask Michael Curtiz.