“Allied” is an unexpectedly good romantic thriller from director Robert Zemeckis. Though we all recognize him as the director of “Back to the Future,” it is easy to forget (or not even realize) that his credits include “Cast Away,” “The Polar Express,” “Contact,” “Forrest Gump,” and many others. He is a diverse director with hits that span several different genres so it should be no surprise that this non-science-y film is so good. The story is fascinating, the mystery keeps you guessing up until the very end and, even though there are so many wrong ways that this film could end, it has the perfect conclusion. The previews emphasized the romanticism of the story but the final product reads as a WWII period piece with an emphasis on the challenges of serving in the military. This disconnect is created by the pacing of the script which spends half of the film developing the characters before the actual love story even begins. The end result is a feeling that we watched a war film and not a love story. The setting is brought to life through impressive costume design and sweeping shots of the Moroccan desert that are reminiscent of “Lawrence of Arabia.” I appreciated the moments of beautiful cinematography, especially the mirror shot in the club. I also found the assassination scene to be visually arresting and the ending engages us so well (I shed a tear) because of the cinematography. This visual beauty pairs well with the emotional, multi-faceted acting of Marion Cotillard. Her performance definitely makes a strong argument for an Oscar nomination. Her complex character is complimented by Brad Pitt whose French is surprisingly good (but as the plot of the film dictates, much more Quebec than Parisian). I don’t think that this is his best performance but Cotillard makes him look so good that they both come out looking brilliant. While the film has so much going for it, it is ruined by gratuitous sexual content that is simply not necessary. I understand that half of this story is about a passionate relationship that clouds the characters’ judgment but a lot can be implied without showing so much skin and thrusting. A prime example is the car scene. The symbolism of the sandstorm is beautiful as it rapidly escalates from calm to tumultuous and reflects what is happening in the car. There are so many perfect moments to cut away and let the weather tell the rest of the scene… but it doesn’t. Instead of enjoying a beautifully crafted piece of cinema, we experience a growing apprehension of “are they really going to show more?” These scenes should enhance the love story but they are so uncomfortable that they take us out of the moment. It is a shame because those few scenes (combined with a slew of unnecessary f-words) undo much of the good that comes from the strong acting and beautiful camerawork. “Allied” is an interesting story that brings the espionage aspect of WWII to life but I will stick to watching an edited version on tv in order to avoid several scenes that I do not care to see again.
[Pictured: The costumes and cinematography give the entire film a stunning visual appeal]