HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:84
There used to be a time when the names “Brad Pitt”and “Robert Zemeckis” would have butts in seats so fast your head would spin. Brad Pitt has been leading man for so long that he was at Tom Cruise and Robert DeNiro status for quite some time. Then there’s Robert Zemeckis, who has made a career of incredibly fun and award winning films for the better part of 3+ decades. The same man who brought us “Back to the Future”, “Castaway”, and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is back again, but this time with strangely lacking results. “Allied” is in no way a bad film, but it is one of those movies that has ALL the right pieces and all the right actors but the wheels just can’t seem to gain traction and really take off under full steam. I enjoyed the movie as it was, but for some reason it really didn’t get a lot of theatrical coverage (was in and out of my theaters in a few weeks) and didn’t really top much at the box office. Zemeckis is a skilled craftsman who has made a plethora of entertaining movies (even if they’re not all Oscar bait) that has given joy to many a young child’s heart, but strangely that is exactly what this films seems to be lacking, heart.
The film starts out with a pretty standard WWII spy concoction, as British spy Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is air dropped into Morocco to meet up with French spy Marianne Beausejour to undergo a joint operation to take out a German ambassador. While there the two spies fall in love and Max begs her to come back to England with him and settle down after the mission. Marianne agrees and the two move back to his homeland where she becomes a housewife and gives birth to their lovely daughter, Anna. However, it’s not long before Section V (a super-secret branch of the British Military) informs Max that his wife is now being investigated under the assumption of being a German spy. It seems that the real Marianne Beausejour was killed in action before the mission that Max engaged with her in and a German agent was supposedly sent in her stead. Now they are giving 72 hours to try and find the people that Marianne is reporting to before executing her or charging her with espionage.
Max is, of course, given a mandate to just act like normal and wait for Section V to finish their analysis to see if Marianne REALLY is a spy, but no loving husband is going to sit by and wait to see if a third party is going to exonerate his wife. Immediately going on the offense, Max searches down everyone who has ever seen his wife in an effort to see if she is who she says she is. However, each and every lead turns up dead and the only one who can confirm or deny his wife’s identity is sitting in a Kraut prison across enemy lines. Lines that he obviously is going to cross in order to find out the truth.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=92257[/img]Zemeckis is usually known for his straight forward adventure or drama films. He’s not exactly a master of subtlety and nuance, but has made quite a career out of doing some great films that rely on strong lead performances. Strangely that’s not exactly the case here. Sure “Allied” is pretty straight forward (almost a little bit TOO straightforward in my opinion), but the acting and writing is where the film stumbles just a little bit. Max and Marianne form a natural bond in their Moroccan mission, but even though it takes the better part of the first hour and ends quite sweetly, it just feels like the romance is a bit rushed. The one thing that a good romance NEEDS is natural buildup. A progression of events that is able to convince the viewer that these people ACTUALLY are in love. Instead it’s a quick burst of action and haphazard love scene in the front seat of a car during a sandstorm and suddenly these two people are head over heels for each other. The same goes for the realization that Marianne might be a spy. Too much is rushed through in order to get to the inevitable ending, so by the time the big wrap up happens the viewer is nowhere near as emotionally vested as they should be.
Pitt and Cotillard both do admirable jobs as the two leads, but it’s the script and directing that really let them down. I enjoyed both performances and just kept having this niggling feeling that despite the 2+ hour runtime, things just felt a little bit rushed. Which is a too bad, as the movie is pretty enjoyable on its own with a more laid back pacing structure and a good old fashioned spy romance instead of nonstop action and special effects. You’re not so much trying to piece together the mystery of Marianne and whether she’s a spy, but rather you’re empathizing with Max’s frustration as he comes to the realization that his marriage and wife is not who she says it is. It makes for a nostalgic feel that is decidedly fresh and different form the standard fare coming out today in regards to spy movies. A bit flawed, but entertaining nonetheless.
Rated R for violence, some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=92265[/img]The highlight of the Blu-ray happens to be the simply magnificent 2.39:1 AVC encoded picture. Shot entirely on Red Epic Dragon cameras, the image is never overly “digital”, but maintains a crystal-clear image that looks faintly reminiscent of film thanks to the shooting of Don Burgess who gives the image some very nice period piece color gradings. The sandy deserts of Morocco show off some slightly hot contrast levels, but these fit in with the sand strewn desert and tan tone to the area. Colors are richly saturated at all times, whether it be the bright blood red of a Nazi Swastika, or the deep blue of the military uniforms. Blacks are sickeningly inky with silky shadows that don’t display a hint of crush or banding (something which is extremely rare if you know what to look for). Facial tones are effectively neutral (except during the Moroccan desert scenes where the sandy tan color grading gives off slightly white looking faces), and you can see every bit of magnificent detail from the dust under Brad Pitt’s jowls, or the intricate curves and lace on Marion’s stunning dinner dress when he first meets her. Simply put, one of the best looking Blu-rays I’ve seen in quite some time, fully demo worthy.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=92273[/img]The same 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is housed on both the Blu-ray AND the 4K UHD disc (something which surprised me as I’ve become so used to UHD discs getting an Atmos or DTS:X just as standard procedure), and while it’s a bit front heavy at times due to the nature of the film, it is wonderfully done with enough rear stage usage and LFE to warrant a very pleased nod of approval from this reviewer. Dialog is always front and center, with the only complaint being that sometimes Marion’s French accent was a BIT difficult to make out (something more to do with my lack of experience with the French accent more than something wrong with Paramount’s encode). The front sound stage gets quite a bit of activity during the dialog centric film, ranging from the pulsing energy of the thriller score, down to the rat a tat tat of Sten 9mm rounds punching through wood and flesh, or the roar of an airplane engine when Max and Marianne attempt their escape. LFE is deep and guttural, adding in quite a bit of low end support with German bombers flying overhead as well as the thunder of motors on the tar mac.
• Story of Allied
• From Stages to the Sahara: The Production Design of Allied
• Through the Lens: Directing with Robert Zemeckis
• A Stitch in Time: The Costumes of Allied
• 'Til Death Do Us Part: Max and Marianne
• Guys and Gals: The Ensemble Cast
• Lights, Pixels, ACTION! The Visual Effects of Allied
• Behind the Wheel: The Vehicles of Allied
• Locked and Loaded: The Weapons of Allied
• That Swingin' Sound: The Music of Allied
“Allied” seems to be a strange bedfellow to the many standard fare hits that Zemeckis has put out in the past, but it’s still a decent spy/romance/thriller. While it never really stands up to being a great film (or even a really good one), the methodical pacing and intricate detailing into the mundane world of being a spy in War II makes for a solidly entertaining rental nonetheless. Brad Pitt turns in a solid performance as always, and the lovely Marion Cotillard is perfect opposite him. My only complaint is that Zemeckis seemed to have the nuts and bolts of what he wanted in a spy/romance epic, but couldn’t seem to bring tougher all the pieces into something that was more than the sum of its parts. Audio and video are nothing short of jaw dropping, but while the extras seem large in quantity, they are sadly a bit slim in length, forcing me to downgrade this one to a simple rental.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Steven Knight
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Portuguese, Spanish DD 5.1
Runtime: 125 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 21st, 2017
Buy Allied On Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy Allied On 4K Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Decent Rental
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