Allied is a 2016 war thriller film directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Steven Knight. It stars Brad Pitt as a Canadian intelligence officer and Marion Cotillard as a French Resistance fighter who fall in love while posing as a married couple during a mission in Casablanca. Jared Harris, Simon McBurney and Lizzy Caplan also star.
Knight developed the script from the story told to him as a 21 year old man. Principal photography began in February 2016 in London, and continued in May 2016 in the Canary Islands, used to stand in for Morocco. Joanna Johnston acted as costume designer for the film, and would match the designs of the costumes around the character's mindset and situations.
The film premiered in Los Angeles on November 9, 2016, and was released in the United States on November 23, 2016 by Paramount Pictures. It received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for its costume design, cinematography, and musical score, but saw criticism for its screenplay and the lack of chemistry between the actors. The film grossed $40.1 million domestic and $119 million worldwide against an approximate $85–113 million budget, becoming regarded as a box office flop. At the 89th Academy Awards, it received a nomination for Best Costume Design.
In 1942 during World War II, Wing Commander Max Vatan, a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot serving on intelligence duties, travels to Casablanca in Morocco to assassinate a German ambassador. He is partnered with a French Resistance fighter named Marianne Beauséjour, who had escaped from France after her resistance group was compromised and killed.
The two pose as a married couple and grow close, despite agreeing that in their line of work feelings can get people killed. Marianne, who is trusted by the Germans, secures Max an invitation to the party where they plan to conduct the assassination. On the day itself, they have sex inside a car in the middle of a desert sandstorm, knowing that they might not survive. However, the mission is successful and they both escape. Max asks Marianne to come with him to London and be his wife. The two get married, settle down in Hampstead, and have a baby girl named Anna, who is born during a bombing raid.
A year later in 1943, Max learns from the Special Operations Executive that Marianne is suspected of being a German spy, having adopted her identity after the real Marianne was killed in France, and that the German ambassador they assassinated was a dissident Hitler wanted dead. To test their suspicions, SOE run a "blue dye" operation: Max is ordered to write down a piece of false intelligence at home, where Marianne can find it. If the information is picked up from intercepted German transmissions, Max must personally execute her, and if he is found to be an accomplice he will be hanged for high treason. Max is told otherwise to act normally and not conduct his own investigation.
Defiant, Max visits a former colleague named Guy Sangster who knew Marianne; however, Sangster, blinded in the war, cannot confirm her identity. He reveals that resistance fighter Paul Delamare, who worked with Marianne in France, is still alive in Dieppe and could identify her. Max finds a young pilot named Adam Hunter, gives him a photograph with a "classified" note—asking if the woman in the photo is Marianne Beauséjour—and instructs him to obtain a "yes" or "no" answer from Delamare.
Max and Marianne host a house party. Max's commanding officer Frank Heslop comes and tells him that Hunter was killed while waiting on the ground for the answer from Delamare and berates him for his insubordination. Max wonders if what he was told about Marianne is all a test of his loyalty as part of a promotion to V-Section.
The following evening, Max takes the place of a Lysander pilot and flies to France to meet Delamare, who is being held at the local police station. Max and the local resistance break into the town's local jail, but Delamare is drunk and unconvincingly verifies the picture. The delay allows time for the French police officer to alert the Germans, whom Max and the resistance manage to defeat. Prior to leaving, Max is informed by Delamare that Marianne was a talented pianist who had once played La Marseillaise in defiance of occupying Germans in the early stages of the war.
Back in England, Max takes Marianne to a local pub and demands she play the piano. Marianne cannot. She admits she is a spy and forwarded the "blue dye" message, which Max left in plain view. She claims her feelings for Max are genuine, and that she was forced back into being a German spy because German agents were threatening Anna.
Max, unwilling to kill his wife, tells her they need to flee the country. He kills Marianne's handlers, a nanny and a jeweller. They drive to a local airbase, but Max cannot get the plane to start before Heslop and the military police arrive. Max tries to plead his case before the officers, but Marianne tells him that she loves him, asks him to take care of Anna, and then shoots herself. Heslop orders the soldiers present to report that Max executed Marianne as per his orders, so that Max himself will not be punished. After the war, Max moves to a ranch in Alberta to raise Anna.
- Brad Pitt as Wing Commander Max Vatan
- Marion Cotillard as Marianne Beauséjour
- Jared Harris as Colonel Frank Heslop
- Simon McBurney as S.O.E. Official
- Lizzy Caplan as Pilot Officer Bridget Vatan
- Daniel Betts as Flight Lieutenant George Kavanagh
- Matthew Goode as Group Captain Guy Sangster
- Anton Lesser as Emmanuel Lombard
- August Diehl as Captain Hobar
- Camille Cottin as Monique
- Charlotte Hope as Louise
- Marion Bailey as Mrs. Sinclair
- Thierry Frémont as Paul Delamare
- Raffey Cassidy as Anna Vatan
- Josh Dylan as Captain Adam Hunter
Development and pre-production
In February 2015, it was announced that Robert Zemeckis was to direct the film, then only known as an untitled World War II romantic thriller, in which Brad Pitt would star. Steven Knight wrote the original screenplay. It had been a story he had first heard when he was 21 and had travelled with his then-girlfriend to Texas to visit her family. Her aunt told him the story of how her brother had fallen for a French woman who would become pregnant with his child and how he brought her to the United States where she gave birth. It was discovered she was a German spy, and, on orders from his superiors, the brother killed her. Knight had desired to make it into a film since that point. While researching for the film, he was never able to find any reference to the story, but did not rule out its accuracy. He shared the story with Pitt, and from there the production began developing. In June 2015, Marion Cotillard was cast to play a spy along with Pitt, who fall in love during a mission to kill a German official. Alan Silvestri, who has served frequently as composer for Zemeckis's films, was hired in October. In January 2016, Jared Harris joined the film, with Lizzy Caplan cast in March.
Principal photography on the film began in February 2016 in London, with the family home located on the corners of Christchurch Hill and Willow Road in Hampstead. Southwark was also used for filming, particularly at Pullens Yard. To keep within budget, many of the film's scenes were shot in a former Gillette factory as, according to VFX supervisor Kevin Baillie, most of the remaining studio space had been occupied by bigger Star Wars and Marvel films. Production designer Gary Freeman coordinated a construction schedule that allowed for space used for filming a hospital courtyard scene to be redesigned for scenes involving a Soho pub within the span of two days. Studio space at Elstree Studios and LH2 Studios were also utilized for the London shoot. Cinematographer Don Burgess stated that all of the more complex scenes for the film were mapped out prior to filming using a style of virtual cinematography, a technique they had used for 2004's The Polar Express. Burgess and Zemeckis elected to break the film down into six specific visual appearances to match the changing tone and settings for the film. In May 2016 scenes set in Casablanca were shot in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands. Freeman stated that filming in the Canary Islands happened as finding locations in Morocco proved a challenge due to the architecture of cities like Casablanca and Tangiers changing significantly since the time period the film is set in. The airfield scenes were shot at RAF Halton that was decorated to look like RAF Hendon during World War II.
For when his character spoke French in the film, Pitt worked with Cotillard to help develop his accent. Cotillard took firearm training for the film, but was never fully comfortable holding the weapon. Filming of the assassination scene was interrupted when Cotillard "freaked out" while handling the weapon. To help with her discomfort, Zemeckis instructed her to put the lock on the machine gun she would use.
Designer and frequent Zemeckis collaborator Joanna Johnston provided the costume design on the film, and was given free rein by Zemeckis on the designs. Due to the quick process of the pre-production, little than two weeks were available to Johnston for research. She described in an interview that she sought to give the costumes a polished, glossy look. For influence, Johnston paid visits to the Imperial War Museum in London, a practice she had also done when working on other war set films such as Saving Private Ryan, Valkyrie and War Horse, looked at the wardrobes of Golden Age actresses Lauren Bacall, Barbara Stanwyck and Katharine Hepburn, and the wardrobes utilized in the films Casablanca and Now, Voyager. Johnston shaped the style of the costumes around the characters, and particular focus was on Marianne, whose clothing altered with the development of the plot. "I wanted her to look very assured in the first part of the film, in Casablanca.", said Johnston, "I looked at a lot of French style and fashion plates from the time, and I made her look very clean and graphic. When she goes to London, she takes on a mantle of being a mother and wife, so I put her in warmer tones. But you never really know who she is."
All of the outfits in the film were custom-made for the cast. The silver cross, worn by Brad Pitt in the film, was also custom-made by London-based jeweller Stephen Einhorn. Several versions of costumes were made, with eight versions of a long green dress worn by Cotillard in the film being specifically noted.
The film had its worldwide premiere on November 9, 2016 at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles. Paramount Pictures released the film on Wednesday, November 23, 2016.
Allied grossed $40.1 million in the United States and Canada and $79.4 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $119.5 million, against a net production budget of $85 million. The Hollywood Reporter estimated the film lost the studio $75–90 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues, and was listed amongst the year's box office flops.
Allied opened alongside Moana, Rules Don't Apply and Bad Santa 2 and was expected to gross around $15 million in its opening weekend and $20–25 million over its first five days from 3,160 theaters. The film ended up grossing $12.7 million in its opening weekend (a five-day total of $17.7 million), finishing 4th at the box office. It remained in fourth place in its second weekend with a gross of $7 million.
The review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 60% based on 253 reviews, and a weighted average of 6.17/10. The site's consensus states: "Allied has its moments, but doesn't quite achieve epic wartime romance status—a disappointment made more profound by the dazzling talent assembled on either side of the camera." Metacritic reports a normalized score of 60 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave a 79% overall positive score and a 56% "definite recommend".
Stephanie Zacharek of Time stated that "Even within this highly synthetic world, Pitt and Cotillard give sturdy, coded performances that feel naturalistic, not phony: They understand clearly that their chief mission is to tap the tradition of melodrama, and they take it seriously. Somehow, almost incomprehensibly, it all works. Allied looks old but smells new, and the scent is heady." Eric Eisenberg from CinemaBlend gave the film four out of five, praising the performances of Pitt and Cotillard and stating they "prove again why they're two of the best in the business." Rex Reed from The New York Observer gave the film four out of four, writing: "Beautiful, bold and blazing with sex and suspense, Allied is a gorgeously photographed, intensely romantic, action-packed film by the great director Robert Zemeckis with two titanic star performances by Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard that delivers something for everyone." At Deadline Hollywood, Pete Hammond, in addition to praising the performances, screenplay and direction, gave praise to Alan Silvestri's score, citing it as one of his best works. For RogerEbert.com, Peter Sobcynzki gave the film 4 stars, highlighting the music from Alan Silvestri, the cinematography from Don Burgess and the costume design from Joanna Johnston. In his summary he wrote, "It is a lovely homage to the kind of entertainment that Hollywood used to put out in the day without breaking a sweat, while still strong and sure enough to work on viewers who have never seen any of the films to which it pays tribute."
Conversely, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gary Rotstein wrote that notwithstanding "so many shared plot references [to] Casablanca", while that film is "among the greatest films of all time ... the other is about as flat as one of those WWII wall maps on which swastikas denote all the German-occupied parts of Europe". Peter Bradshaw, in his 2 star review for The Guardian, cited the film as "arduous" and the script as "an unconvincing and sluggish pastiche of a war movie". He would also write critically of Pitt and Cotillard's chemistry, comparing them to "thesp robots from Westworld with some kind of Google Translate chip implanted in their heads". David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter was also critical of Pitt and Cotillard's chemistry, stating "neither Pitt nor Cotillard is terribly persuasive at conveying the smoldering passions that catch Max and Marianne off guard after their initially circumspect interactions". This would tie into his criticisms of Knight's screenplay, which he referred to as "flaccid". Oliver Lyttleton of The Playlist shared similar sentiments about the script, finding any aspect of Knight's script that appeared to focus on the characters and deceit of the situation to be "constantly undermined by the actual execution". Lyttleton would also be critical of the visual effects and the third act of the film, drawing a comparison of "malevolently" splicing scenes of Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor into Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious. Robert Abele of TheWrap thought about the screenplay "Screenwriter Knight fumbles with the plot’s emotional impulses and ticking plot requirements, with neither holding ground long enough to give the movie momentum." Abele was also critical of the lead performances and their chemistry, referring to Pitt as "miscast" and finding Cotillard ill-fitting for her role.
Allied was released on Digital HD on February 14, 2017 and on Blu-ray and DVD on February 28, 2017.