BY ROGER THOMAS
Robert Zemeckis is one of the finest directors among the current filmmakers. He has given us wonderful works that include the three “Back to the Future” films, “Forrest Gump,” “The Polar Express,” “Contact,” “Cast Away” and last year’s under-rated film “The Walk.” If you have not seen “The Walk,” you should rent that instead of going to “Allied.”
I would not put “Allied” among his best, but nor is it his worst film.
Zemekis and the other creators of “Allied” are probably hoping that this film will run throughout the “Holiday Season. It has all the elements. There is a love story, a war story, big stars, high production values, a somewhat captivating mystery and a strong conclusion. With all these elements, the film is still one of the lesser productions during a time when the cinema is offering many truly distinctive works. “Allied” opened the week of Thanksgiving, and it did not have a very successful opening week.
“Allied” stars Brad Pitt and Oscar-Winning Marion Cotillard. Those two alone are enough to get some people into theatre seats. Pitt plays an intelligence officer in Casablanca who begins to work with Cotillard’s character who is a French Resistance fighter. In the beginning the two are only pretending to be a couple, but as they get to know one another, they fall in love. Or at least one of them does.
During this time in the film, some parts are better than others. Several moments seem repetitive or insignificant to the overall story. Most can predict that a romance is coming and the film does improve as Pitt and Cotillard become more intimately involved. Eventually the couple marry and have a child.
However, the true catalyst of the film comes about halfway through the story, when Pitt’s character Max is given information by his superiors. This revelation is presented in the trailer, but I want share it here. I will only say that the film is altered once the information is shared with Max. The film transforms from something that was plodding to something sprinting once Max has the conversation. Needless to say, I liked the second act of the story far more than the first half.
The film has some several strengths. Visually it is truly epic. Zemekis knows how to use visual effects and impressive scenery. So many of his films have been truly works of visual art. “Allied” has some truly artistic settings. There are moments of the couple sitting on sand dunes, dining in restaurants, having conversations on the roof of their residence; all these settings are inspired and give the film a special feel of a time gone by.
The chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard also works. These are two fine actors and it is fun to watch them developing these characters.
There are also some well-choreographed action sequences. Though the film drags in the first hour, there are moments that are filled with excitement and potential danger which lift the film up after the slower section.
However, the best parts of the film are not the action sequences nor do the best moments focus on the sets, effects or many of the other artistic elements. Ultimately, the best parts of the film are the ones presenting the emotional struggle Max in undergoing. The film feels like an epic, it wants to be grand, along the tradition of “The English Patient,” but “Allied” is at its best, when it is focused on one character’s struggle.
In the end, “Allied” is not a bad film or a great one. It looks outstanding and the second half is intriguing with both ideas and performances. The first half could have been stronger, but one good half is better than none.