French Morocco, 1942. Casablanca to be precise. And that could only mean WWII. A Royal Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) finds himself paired as the husband of French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), with the German Ambassador Hobar (August Diehl) to Casablanca being their target. Mission assassination accomplished, their pretence at being a couple transforms into love – well enough to escape to London, wed and beget a child. All’s well till Max’s superiors suspect Marianne of being a German plant. Distressed at the news, he’s ordered to behave normally for the next three days. These 72 hours form the riveting bulk of the second half as Max goes about trying to prove his bosses wrong, and the turmoil of the battlefront spills over onto the domestic front.
The film opens sedately but impressively, with Max being parachuted into the sand dunes of Morocco. The action perks up 40 minutes later with the Ambassador’s assassination. In Allied, director Robert Zemeckis’ (Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Back to the Future) WWII period accuracy can barely be faulted, but Brad Pitt’s debonair looks seems to come in the way of what could have been a convincing portrayal. With her impeccable French, (the French-born) Marion Cotillard carries off her part as the French Resistance fighter with perfection, even as seasoned actors Jared Harris (as Max’s Commanding Officer) and Lizzy Caplan (as Max’s lesbian sister) are relegated to the sidelines.
The cinematography is top-class but Steven Knight’s script lacks the tautness of Frederick Forsyth’s writing of an espionage thriller. Dialogues such as ‘in the game you keep your emotions real, that’s why it works’ do work, but then transgress into something like ‘I’ve looked into her soul’.