Never marry Brad Pitt

‘Allied’ is a stale cautionary tale

This sexy spy thriller is neither sexy nor thrilling. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard play spies in love during World War II. Only Cotillard may be a double agent, and Pitt has to decide whether to trust her or freak out. Non-spoiler alert: He freaks out.

As creative luminaries Alfred Hitchcock and Sir Mix-a-Lot have demonstrated, a great end is crucial to quality art. Allied does not have a great end. It has a dumpy, problematic back half that nobody should watch and few will enjoy, even if it belongs to Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. Director Robert Zemeckis has made a movie that feels like someone fell asleep watching Casablanca and then told everyone, in painstaking detail, about a lame dream they had that night.

Pitt plays Max Vatan, a Canadian who is a perfect spy because he has no defining characteristics that call attention to him. Cotillard plays Marianne Beauséjour, a French spy who partners with Max to gun down a Nazi in the film’s modestly interesting first half. After some great sex in the middle of a sandstorm, the pair leave French Morocco, get hitched and produce offspring. Well, she produces offspring, he mostly makes a stupid face that looks like fart contemplation while she does the hard work during a German air raid.

Later, he’s still working with the British against the Nazis and gets understandably bummed when he is told that the lady he thinks is Marianne may not actually be her at all: She may be a secret German spy who is leaking allied secrets. Instead of trusting his wife, talking to his wife, following the government’s plan to investigate his wife or generally doing anything respectful towards his wife, Max goes honkin’ bonkers. He steals planes and interrogates horribly injured soldiers, not because he fears he’s contributed to the greater Nazi scheme but because he may have been deceived… by a lady!

Allied is a reinforcement, intentional or not, of the bullshit men’s rights activist logic that women are inherently distrustful. Were it not a vile cautionary tale about the dangers inherent in trusting a wife beyond baby-making, it would only have been boring and inert. Because it’s both things, it goes from being a waste of time to a fried slice of crap. Writer Steven Knight likely thought he was winding up a tense romantic thriller and would bristle at some of the implications mentioned. Bristle away, buddy, that’s still exactly what you wrote here.

He’s not alone in the blame though. Cotillard and Pitt are famously rumored to have banged a gong in real life during the filming of this movie. Having watched it, that seems more like a lie spread in order to distract from the palpable lack of chemistry between the two on screen. Thinking more about it, the sandstorm that whips around the car as Max and Marianne engage in full Beauséjour seems more like a way to obscure the carnal recreations than to sex them up. Well played!

Weak and limp as a romantic thriller, problematic as a husband/wife narrative and wholly negligible as a Nazi-era spy piece, Allied wants so badly to capture older audiences, it puts its final credits in easy-to-read, oversized print. Young, old or otherwise, Allied isn’t much for anybody, at least those with any interest in things that are, you know, good.

Half a star.

This review previously appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Nebraska.


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