American director Robert Zemeckis has had a pretty amazing career. He broke onto the scene with 1984s Romancing the Stone and helmed the Back to the Future Trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, Contact, Cast Away, The Polar Express and The Walk since.
That’s quite a resume, and also a varied one - which means you never quite know what you’re going to get, to coin a phrase. But Allied is far from a box of chocolates.
It’s pretty clearly meant as a bit of an homage to the Golden Age of cinema, when lustrously photographed women and men threw smoulders and non sequiturs in equal measure on a monochrome stage.
Here, Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are spies who have to play a married couple while behind enemy lines. That sets up a game of lies and trickery which comes from being in this particular line of work, which has consequences for their future relationship.
There’s nothing wrong with the old school callbacks or the setup, it just never really does anything with that potential. Zemeckis kind of wants a 40s era romance, but also adds in splashes of ultraviolence. Steven Knight’s script wants to be tricksy but ends up being rather dry and conventional.
Pitt is undoubtly still a star and looks great on screen but he’s got little to do, and seems less than interested in bringing any depth to the performance. Cotillard at least is trying and has a meatier role, though it’s all still a bit underdeveloped.
It doesn’t help that the whole thing is so slathered in CG. Zemeckis has long been a fan of copious special effects but this feature kicks off with a ragdoll parachuting Pitt and just gets more plastic from there. Whole streets and sandy wastes are rendered, suggesting the duo barely stepped outside for the whole shoot.
All these elements combine to make Allied feel pretty weightless, even as the emotional climax approaches. There are some attractive images and Alan Silvestri’s score is hummable but there’s little else to see here.