Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, Shockya
Grade: B+
Director:  Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Steven Knight
Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris
Screened at: AMC 34th St., NYC, 11/17/16
Opens: November 23, 2016

Movies that take place during World War II will likely be shown ten, twenty, a hundred years from now, partly, I think, because it’s the one war involving the U.S. that most agree pits good against evil.  Another is the many dramatic varieties of intimate stories that emerge.  One such story involves Max Vatan (Brad Pitt), a Canadian intelligence officer, married during wartime to Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard).  “Allied,” on which director Robert Zemeckis unfolds his story, is on a large canvas indeed, but heavily focused on a romance of two people who clearly love each other.  In the latter regard, the stellar performances by Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard evoke a powerful chemistry.  They marry even though one officer warns that wedlock under battle conditions does not last.  In fact the big question before the audience, one which is exquisitely milked by Zemeckis with a penetrating script by Steven Knight, becomes: is Marianne Beausejour really who she says she is, or is she, like Don Draper in the TV series “Mad Men,” impersonating the real French woman?

Zemeckis is well known for such films as “Back to the Future,” a Spielbergian sci-fi comedy-drama, and also for more intimate pics like “Forrest Gump,” about a low IQ man who is hopeful of the future and dreams of his childhood sweetheart.  For his part, screenwriter Steven Knight’s resume includes writing the script to “Burnt,” about a man seeking to redeem himself with a restaurant with which he hopes to get three Michelin stars.

The story opens in the Moroccan desert, into which Max Vatan parachutes, connecting with a ride to Casablanca, and damned if Brad Pitt doesn’t conjures up the image of Humphrey Bogart as he meets the resistance fighter in a club patronized by German occupying officers.  Max and Marianne plan to kill the German ambassador at a party, to which Max feigns no interest.  In one of the few explosive battle scenes, the two battle with the enemy shooting-gallery style.

There is just one problem: Marianne, with all her passion for Max, may be a spy for Germany.  If so, she fails to obey orders, which would presumably be not to fall in love with Canadians or English or French but rather to merely pretend affection—all the better for completing the mission.

The film is nearly bereft of comic touches, one involving Max’s skill as a card sharp, shuffling a deck every which way to impress a Nazi officer.  One scene involving spectacular visual effects shows a Luftwaffe aircraft shot down, burning, and heading straight for a London building housing Marianne and Max.   Though a war picture on one level, the emphasis is on the love between Max and Marianne, who are a pretend couple in Casablanca but who marry when they arrive in London.  (One woman sitting behind me commented that Cotillard and Angelina Jolie are so much alike that she would not be surprised if Brad and Marion got cozy with each other off the set.)

If you’re looking for a war picture in the tradition of “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” “The Longest Day,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” this is not the one.  The few battle scenes are executed nicely but throughout, the principal theme remains the Max’s conflict, since he is told that if his wife turns out to be a German spy, he must execute her.  Failing that, he would himself be hanged for high treason.  The film is based on a true story of two assassins, but wouldn’t this demand be just too difficult to believe?

Filming was on location in England, in Buckinghamshire, Hampstead and London, while the Canary Islands (Fuerteventura and Las Palmas) stand in for Casablanca. Diepe and Seine-Maritime in France are utilized as well.

Rated R.  124 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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