“Betrayal is the only truth that sticks” – Arthur Miller
Allied is a throwback to the epic war drama/romance of yesterday. “Max Vartan” (Brad Pitt) is a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot. In 1942 he’s thrown into intelligence work and sent to French Morocco to work with “Marianne Beausejour” (Marion Cotillard) in a plan to assassinate the German ambassador. He is covered as a phosphate miner and as Marianne’s husband. The plan centers around their landing an invitation for him to join her at an embassy party where they will kill the ambassador.
As they are making their escape afterward Max proposes marriage. He ends up working at a desk, but still in intelligence in London and eventually Marianne is allowed to join him. They wed and soon their daughter Anna is born. Max’s commanding officer “General Frank Heslop” (Jared Harris) and a Special Operations Executive (SOE, a British wartime unit engaged in espionage in Europe) official (Simon McBurney) inform Max that his wife is almost certainly a German spy. They order Max to expose some false information to Marianne and if it shows up in the transmissions they are monitoring, he is ordered to execute her with his own hands.
This poses several problems. Max truly loves Marianne and both are enamored of their daughter “Anna” who was born in the middle of a bombing raid. He is ordered not to conduct his own investigation but as that order is being given it is obvious he will ignore it. The question is, can he learn the truth over the course of the weekend he has before he will learn if Marianne has or hasn’t betrayed his trust.
Max’s sister “Bridget” (Lizzy Caplan) provides a sympathetic ear but little else in the way of assistance and Max’s first attempt to discern the truth fails. Worse yet, General Heslop discovers it and warns Max against further interference. Again, he ignores this order and journeys into occupied France where a man named “Paul Delamare” (Thierry Frémont) can hopefully tell him if Marianne is who she claims to be.
The easy chemistry between Max and Marianne in the early going is more about two skilled intelligence operatives engaged in a cloak and dagger operation. It never truly reaches the level of two lovers driven into each others arms in the silent desperation of war. There is a moment where Brad Pitt kicks a chair in a move eeriely identical to one of the combat tactics he used as Achilles in 2004’s Troy and its presence seems odd. The intelligence officer is the stealthy warrior who only fights when he has to.
The few action sequences are well-done as is the visual feel of the World War II era where the film is set. The pacing is more than a bit uneven. The ultimate conclusion is easily foreseen but that makes it no less dramatic or appropriate.