Allied Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Rated R. Now playing citywide.
Over the course of the 21st century, big-budget movies made expressly for adults have gone virtually extinct. When one occasionally does get made, it’s such a breath of fresh air amongst all the superhero antics that there’s a danger of getting overly excited. Still, anybody who misses old-fashioned glamour and movie-star charisma will get some degree of pleasure from Allied, a tony World War II thriller starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as spies who fake a romance but wind up genuinely falling in love. What once would have been considered merely passable entertainment now feels almost revolutionary.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis (who seems to have finally left behind the uncanny valley of motion capture) and written by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Locke), Allied spends its first hour or so in full-fledged espionage mode. It’s 1942, and Max (Pitt), a Canadian intelligence officer, joins forces with French Resistance fighter Marianne (Cotillard), whom he’s never met. Their mission requires that they attend a party being thrown by the German ambassador to Morocco; to achieve this, they must pretend to be married, despite meeting for the first time with the charade already underway.
It’s when the film jumps ahead a few years to the couple’s actual married life together in London, however, that the real intrigue kicks in. What transpires is best discovered for oneself; suffice it to say that one of the parties begins to suspect that the other might be hiding something. Pitt and Cotillard give thoroughly modern performances that still manage to evoke the heightened emotions of classic Hollywood, and Zemeckis orchestrates both the adventurous half and the domestic half with practiced elegance. Allied doesn’t quite achieve the overwhelming emotional catharsis for which it aims, but it least it has the wherewithal to try. As a respite from endless CGI pyrotechnics aimed at bored teenagers, it’ll do.