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Allied movie reviews: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard thriller is glamorous and hollow

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Paramount Pictures

It’s the movie that sparked a million rumors, as its debut trailer curiously dropped the same day Angelina Jolie announced her split from star Brad Pitt, offering audiences a first glimpse at intimate scenes the A-lister shares with his Oscar-winning costar, Marion Cotillard. The internet buzzed with unsubstantiated claims of infidelity, forcing Cotillard herself to issue a statement in which she called out the “haters” for twisting the details of the story into the realm of untruth. 

So, was all the drama worth it? Critics have weighed in on the historical romantic thriller, set in the 1940s during World War II, which follows the tumultuous relationship between a Canadian intelligence officer, Max (Pitt) and a French resistance fighter, Marianne (Cotillard), who fall in love after meeting on a dangerous mission in North Africa, only to cross paths once again in London, where they marry. Max begins to suspect Marianne might actually be a Nazi spy, however, and is ordered by his military superiors to surveil and kill her if, in fact, she’s a traitor. 

Early reviews suggest the film, while boasting signature hallmarks of director Robert Zemeckis’ lengthy filmography, including lavish sets, glamorous costumes, and breathtaking visuals, marks yet another lackluster entry into the filmmaker’s oeuvre — one that, despite what its steamy trailers would suggest, fails to generate tangible chemistry between its leads. 

“As Pitt’s marriage collapsed in the real world, social media buzzed impertinently about the Allied stars’ relationship,” Peter Bradshaw writes for The Guardian. “But in this film, there is no chemistry, no romantic fusion, no Bradion, no Mariobrad. Their screen passion bursts forth like a cold wet teabag falling out of a mug that you have upended over the kitchen sink and don’t much feel like washing up.”

The Wrap‘s Robert Abele agrees

“It’s especially problematic that Pitt seems wholly miscast, and Cotillard turns in an awkwardly pitched performance,” he writes. “Though the two of them still look beautiful here, the movie’s title doesn’t hold water regarding their chemistry.” 

IndieWire’s Kate Erbland enjoyed watching Pitt and Cotillard as an on-screen couple more than her peers, though she blames Zemeckis’ direction and Steven Knight’s (Dirty Pretty Things) script for biting off more than it can chew, derailing an otherwise exciting historical romp. 

“… things really pop when the duo are waging a cold war with the world around them, all guns blazing and can-do attitude… But once their first mission – quite improbably, though expertly choreographed – goes off without a hitch, Steven Knight’s script pulls the pair apart in service to an entirely different storyline, one that’s both less entertaining and much more convoluted than the film’s snappy first act,” she writes. 

One of the few major film journalists writing positively of Pitt and Cotillard’s shared screen presence (and the entire film around them) is EW’s Chris Nashawaty. 

Allied is directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the FutureForrest Gump), and it runs with the slick, well-oiled precision that a seasoned professional brings to the job. It’s not trying to be flashy or arty, it just wants to get the job done. And it does that and a little more,” he writes in his review, giving the film a B+ grade. “You may know exactly where a movie like Allied is leading you, but its two smart, smoldering leads make you want to take the ride.” 

Also praising Zemeckis’ handling of a many-layered plot is The Village Voice‘s Bilge Ebiri, who called the time-tested filmmaker’s skills “quiet” and deliberately precise with regards to the material at hand. 

“Allied wears its conventionality on its sleeve, and proudly so. But in between what may be familiar plot developments, Zemeckis and his cast find ways to pull us in, and even keep us guessing as to these characters’ true natures,” his review reads. “Allied doesn’t deliver any particularly shocking twists or turns; the real surprise here is how much a well-told, well-acted tale can still resonate.”

Read on for more Allied review excerpts ahead of the film’s Nov. 23 theatrical debut. 

Chris Nashawaty (EW

“Allied is directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the FutureForrest Gump), and it runs with the slick, well-oiled precision that a seasoned professional brings to the job. It’s not trying to be flashy or arty, it just wants to get the job done. And it does that and a little more…  You may know exactly where a movie like Allied is leading you, but its two smart, smoldering leads make you want to take the ride. Here’s looking at you, kids.”

Kate Erbland (IndieWire)

“Love is a battlefield – often literally so – in Robert Zemeckis’ uneven Allied, which attempts to harness enough glossy old Hollywood glamour to disguise a startlingly flat and just plain silly tale of spies in love… Pitt and Cotillard’s chemistry crackles when they’re actually practicing good old-fashioned spycraft together, and things really pop when the duo are waging a cold war with the world around them, all guns blazing and can-do attitude… But once their first mission – quite improbably, though expertly choreographed – goes off without a hitch, Steven Knight’s script pulls the pair apart in service to an entirely different storyline, one that’s both less entertaining and much more convoluted than the film’s snappy first act.” 

Owen Gleiberman (Variety)

“Once in a while, though, Zemeckis makes a film that reminds you what a terrific director he can be when he works the old-fashioned way, staging unadorned human drama without the safety net of cutting-edge visual flimflam… Zemeckis, working from a script by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, the amusing and underrated Burnt), is alive to what’s great about old movies: the supple, nearly invisible craft that allows scenes to throb with emotional suspense. Allied isn’t based on a true story; it’s a flagrantly movie-ish concoction. But like Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, it’s been made with a so-old-it’s-new classicism that is executed with enough flair to lure audiences in… Allied is tense and absorbing, yet the film’s climactic act somehow falls short. Zemeckis and company don’t make any obvious missteps, but the movie, in trying to reach out and tug on our heartstrings, goes soft regarding what the Marianne we’re presented with would choose to do. (It could, and should, have gone darker.) You believe that she loves Max, but there’s another side to her devotion that washes away far too easily. The result is that Allied inspires most of the old-movie reactions it’s going for except one: It never makes you swoon.”

Robert Abele (The Wrap)

“And since the basis of it all is that love affair — whether it’s doomed or salvageable — it’s especially problematic that Pitt seems wholly miscast, and Cotillard turns in an awkwardly pitched performance. The aging golden boy has never been comfortable with conventional heroes or handsome stiffs, and here he’s both. (You can practically see in Pitt’s eyes how much he’d rather bounce around and be character-actor carefree.) Cotillard, meanwhile, has always seemed ill at ease when the Hollywood juggernauts push her into mysterious sultriness; her intelligent, sexy seriousness is a more organic force when commanding a more down-to-earth French-language vehicle. Though the two of them still look beautiful here, the movie’s title doesn’t hold water regarding their chemistry.” 

Bilge Ebiri (The Village Voice)

Allied wears its conventionality on its sleeve, and proudly so. But in between what may be familiar plot developments, Zemeckis and his cast find ways to pull us in, and even keep us guessing as to these characters’ true natures… It’s also — dare I say it — moving. Zemeckis directs with quiet, deliberate precision, but that makes the occasional burst of wild emotion more effective. Giving birth to their child in a London hospital — c’mon, you just knew these two were going to end up having a kid together — as German bombs fall all around them, Marianne grabs Max and yells, ‘C’est moi! This is really me, as I am before God!’ It’s a big, wildly melodramatic moment, but it works because the film has placed us into a world of extremes — where people veer between reticence and madness. We might even overlook the fact that the Germans weren’t really bombing England in 1943. And the two leads are excellent, particularly Cotillard, whose reserve is often used by filmmakers to keep us guessing as to her characters’ true intentions. As Marianne, her bursts of emotion are both touching and curious: The more we see of her ‘true’ self, the more we wonder about what we were seeing before. Allied doesn’t deliver any particularly shocking twists or turns; the real surprise here is how much a well-told, well-acted tale can still resonate.” 

David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter)

“Not once but twice in Robert Zemeckis’ dreary spy thriller, Allied, Marion Cotillard’s character, an undercover World War II operative, says, ‘I keep the emotions real. That’s why it works.’ Sadly, neither the director nor the cast appear to have absorbed that message in this inert period piece, which suffers from an absence of chemistry between leads Cotillard and Brad Pitt, undercutting the romance on which much of the supposed suspense should hinge. Plodding and pedestrian even in the technical magic that is a Zemeckis trademark, this is a case of a director out of his element with a script that fails to generate much heat.”

Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)

“As Pitt’s marriage collapsed in the real world, social media buzzed impertinently about the Allied stars’ relationship. But in this film, there is no chemistry, no romantic fusion, no Bradion, no Mariobrad. Their screen passion bursts forth like a cold wet teabag falling out of a mug that you have upended over the kitchen sink and don’t much feel like washing up. Their rapport fizzes like a quarter-inch of bin juice left after you have taken the rubbish out… It seems like tourist cinema: a tourist visit to the heritage-wartime past, with Max and Marianne looking like uncomfortable tourists in each other’s languages and in each other’s lives. Despite being married, they always look like strangers; the stars look as if they are intent on squashing rumours by behaving as if they have just emerged from their trailers and have yet to be introduced.” 

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