ALLIED (Movie Review)

** out of ****
Rated R
(for violence, sexuality/nudity, strong language, and brief drug use)
Released: November 23, 2016
Runtime: 124 minutes
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Simon McBurney, Lizzy Caplan

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What a waste of gorgeous Old Hollywood filmmaking.

Allied is a love letter to how studios used to make ‘em (albeit with some contemporary R-rated language and sex), and there’s even an intriguing character hook at the story’s core, though hardly an original one. But when a film so utterly dependent on romantic heat between its leads fails to even ignite a spark, well, a lush cinematic palette only takes you so far.

Opening in 1942 Casablanca at another part of town from Rick’s Café, Allied sets up a tale of love and espionage set against the backdrop of World War II. Unfortunately it has little of either love or espionage, offering merely their affectations, and the end result doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

There’s much more talking about spycraft than actual field work between Brad Pitt’s Canadian agent and Marion Cotillard’s French counterpart, humoring the audience through stale bits of protecting their cover from Nazis, but creating zero tension. The first major action doesn’t explode onscreen until about forty minutes in, and then only briefly.

The things you put in a trailer to sell a movie end up being on the periphery as these two gorgeous leads toil, and fail, at making us believe they’re falling in love. There are actual scenes, played at length, that are clearly designed to stir sexual chemistry, but this bubbly has no fizzle.

The fault lands at the feet of Brad Pitt, a character actor of limited range who just so happened to win the genetic jackpot of matinee idol looks. There’s no chemistry here because he lacks the requisite charisma.

Filmmaker Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back To The Future) doesn’t seem particularly comfortable either. It feels like he’s directing this homage according to how he thinks he’s supposed to rather than how he wants to. He’s especially out of his element when staging sex scenes, which are awkward, including the first carnal go-round in the middle of a swirling desert sandstorm. The metaphor is laughable.

Of course there comes a point when one of these two may not be trustworthy (and it takes too long to get there, quite frankly, as we know it’s coming). Do both genuinely love each other? Is one just playing the other? Does anyone watching actually care? Did anyone on set? Pointless questions that don’t beg answers, only a quicker ending.

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