Published Nov 23, 2016As with most Hollywood heartthrobs known for their womanizing ways, the hype surrounding Brad Pitt's latest film, the WWII romantic spy drama Allied, has more to do with his personal life than the film itself. First there were rumours of child abuse, then a split from his wife, Angelina Jolie, followed by even more rumours that part of it had to do with an off-screen affair with his current co-star Marion Cotillard. It felt like the circumstances surrounding Mr. & Mrs. Smith were happening all over again.
But even a bit of tabloid fodder can't spice up Robert Zemeckis' latest film. Switching his tack somewhat from the one he took on last year's visually sumptuous 3D spectacle The Walk, Allied finds the acclaimed director ditching the dazzle in favour of pure melodrama — the kind seen in such cinematic classics as Casablanca.
That's exactly where the film starts, as Pitt, a Canadian intelligence officer named Max Vatan, is parachuted into the North African desert and driven to the Moroccan capital to carry out a secret attack on the German Ambassador. It's there that he meets Marianne Beauséjour (Cotillard), a badass fighting for the French Resistance who's been hired to pose as his wife while they prepare to carry out their plan. Sparks fly almost immediately.
Afterwards, the pair decides to move to London, get married and have a baby. But right as they're about to settle into family life, British Intelligence drops a bombshell on Vatan: his wife isn't who she seems to be, and may be working for the enemy. If he can't prove her innocence, he'll be forced to execute her by his own hand.
British screenwriter Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders, Eastern Promises) has created a solid script here that's both playful and heart-wrenching, and the simple storyline and subdued tone suits Zemeckis well — surprising for a guy best known for creating eye-popping action in the Back to the Future series. But there's little electricity to Pitt and Cotillard's supposed spark, with the latter doing most of the heavy lifting while Pitt delivers lines like a piece of stale baguette come to life.
It's a shame, really, because they don't make movies like Allied anymore. Maybe it's time the leading man let some others take the lead? (Paramount)