“Casablanca rooftops are where husbands go after they’ve made love to their wives.” “A husband always offers his wife a cigarette before he lights his own.” 15 minutes into the swanky spy thriller, Allied, and Marianne Beausejour (played by Marion Cotillard) has proved why she’s one of the best French resistance fighters in 1942. She and intelligence officer and fellow resistance fighter Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) go undercover as a young, married couple who are on a mission to assassinate a German official. Her backstory is thorough, her commands of her “husband” (“Kiss me on the lips now”) ensure everyone believes they’ve been in love for years.
Set against an exquisite backdrop in Spain and the UK, director Robert Zemeckis deftly transports the audience to a flashy and yet war-torn 1940s through costume and production design. But the one aspect to top both is the on-screen chemistry between the two titular characters. So electrifying, you become invested in these good people doing bad things and even more invested in the very real relationship itself.
When the pair unexpectedly (read: expectedly) fall in love, they flee the life of spy to a quiet English neighbourhood where they marry and Marianne gives birth to a beautiful baby daughter. You really believe in the love story between the pair and are shattered when domestic bliss takes a potentially fatal turn as Max’s work accuses Marianne of being a German spy. Max is ordered to secretly investigate his wife’s actions and if it is proven she is indeed a spy, he must execute her with his own hands or be hanged.
It’s at this point that you can’t help liken the plotline to Pitt’s 2005 film Mr and Mrs Smith (the actor met and fell in love with his soon-to-be ex-wife Angelina Jolie), albeit Allied is lot deeper. Where Pitt and Jolie were playing characters who were assassins working for opposing adversarial agencies, Cotillard plays a spy who is leaking her husband’s top secret information. Both are in marriages working against one another. But it’s the town sirens, aircraft bombings and explosions that make these characters more real than the Smiths. Halfway through the film, we don’t see assassins anymore, but rather a young family unit protecting their baby in the best way they can during the terrifying Second World War. But is Marianne even guilty of this crime? Or is it a test put to Max to see if he is worthy of a promotion?
Sitting in your cinema seat, at times you will be troubled by some of Max’s decisions (why didn’t he whisper to his wife not to leak the telephone message?) but you will also feel complete heartache for two human beings who are done with their old lives and are desperate to start afresh. A great performance by Pitt but an incredible portrayal by Cotillard. She must be a strong contender for Emma Stone in La La Land for the Oscar.
Allied is in Australian cinemas December 26.