Rated R, 124 minutes
The familiar but handsome new romantic thriller "Allied" brims with style and romance, even if it pulls few surprises along the way. Directed by Oscar-winner Robert Zemeckis of "Forrest Gump" and "Cast Away" fame and written by Steven Knight ("Pawn Sacrifice"), "Allied" bears striking resemblance to Hitchcock's 1946 Cary Grant-Ingrid Bergman classic "Notorious," with its two leads serviceably carrying on the Grant-Bergman torch.
In 1942 North Africa, Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) meets French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard) on a secret mission behind enemy lines. The couple fall in love and get married, eventually having a child together. Their relationship is strong and normal but becomes threatened by the brink of war, as Vatan is presented with the possibility that Beausejour is a German spy, and he receives orders to kill her.
The real question coming out of the modestly gripping "Allied" may be, who's better, Pitt or Cotillard? With it being nearly a draw, I give an overall, slight edge to Cotillard in a convincing, subtle portrayal of "is she or isn't she?" that could've easily been drawn on the cheesy side. However, Pitt emotes well, and the final, painful look on his face at the end will resonate with audiences, particularly of the female set. Pitt and Cotillard also share a warm chemistry, not to mention a couple of steamy love scenes well-choreographed by Zemeckis.
Zemeckis is a solid, detail-oriented director with technical expertise, and he makes "Allied" shine with some first-rate production values along with help from some of his usual collaborators, including Alan Silvestri, who delivers a nice, dramatic score, and handsome photography from Don Burgess, who nicely evokes memories of World War II. Pitt and Cotillard are well-supported by character actor Jared Harris as Vatan's tough commander and Lizzy Caplan as Vatan's earthy, lesbian sister.
On the downside, it seems to be playing some familiar notes, and the second act is more sluggish than necessary, moving slower than usual for a thriller as this. Without giving away its plot spoilers, don't go to "Allied" expecting a cheerful ending, it's a downer alright, but it ends as well as it could've ended when romance is as tragedy-stricken as this is. Still, "Allied" is an entertaining, romantic date movie and period piece that should please both sexes.