I’m not sure what the majority of people will think when they settle back in popcorn-scented darkness to watch “Allied,” over the next few weeks, but I can tell you what was prominent on my mind, which was basically, boy, has Brad Pitt aged well. We get to see him from behind in the opening scene as he tumbles to the ground out of an airplane, and after that, in a variety of poses as he furrows his brow and engages in moral dilemmas involving his fellow spy and eventually wife (Marion Cotillard). Both actors play youngish, attractive people, but Brad looks like he’s spent the past decade preserved in a plastic fronted box, such as would hold a Ken doll, and has only recently had the ankle and wrist ties removed so he can move about. Luckily, the various people in the movie that Brad and Marion have to fool are fairly dense, so that a guy who looks like Brad Pitt doesn’t immediately attract notice wherever he goes, improbable as this may seem. No, all Brad has to do is speak fluent French, cut a deck of cards, and know the formula for phosphate (don’t ask).
The movie begins in 1942 Morocco with lots of camels leisurely ambling about, but we get a close up of a swastika armband right away, so we know who the enemy is. Brad, who is actually a Canadian spy (as we can tell from the cross stich on his uniform), first poses as Marion’s husband, when they are assigned to assassinate a high ranking German official, plus the rest of the guests, at a posh function. Marion instructs Brad on various spy protocol, including when to pretend one doesn’t know English too well. In one scene, Brad has to demonstrate how to shuffle a deck of cards, but he winds up losing the bet and having to attend the fatal function, after supposedly having to miss a poker game at the same time. We learn later that this is a very good thing because when Brad does have to fake normalcy, he does an exceedingly poor job of it. But first, it’s on to see how fast the two “spouses” can consummate their “marriage,” which is about twenty minutes or so into the film- they choose a car in a sandstorm so most of what the Brits call the naughty bits are obscured. After that, they get hitched for real and take a break from top secret stuff for awhile.
Fast forward nine months to when Marion does something even more heroic than assassinate a bunch of Nazis – she gives birth in the middle of an air raid after her hospital ward is evacuated during the Blitz in London. Married life agrees with both Brad and Marion – until the day when another high-ranking, humorless top official summons Brad into his private lair and announces that Marion is a traitor. This means that Brad has to do quite a bit of acting during the period where Marion’s loyalty is being tested. I won’t spoil the ending, but whether or not the evidence is real turns out to hinge on a piano piece. After that, there is tension when the heroes are trying to escape the baddies (with their toddler daughter, no less), which ends unhappily. Overall, both actors and the supporting cast do a decent job, and there’s certainly chemistry between the leads, but it spends a lot of time meandering around to the direct action. However, “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” another upcoming movie set in the same period looks promising from the trailer.