Set between Morocco in 1942 and the UK and France before D-Day, the core theme of “Allied” turns out to be German spies in Britain. They were all captured, tried in camera by civil or military courts with offences against the Treachery Act 1940 and, with one exception, were hanged at either Wandsworth or Pentonville prison.
Brad Pitt plays Canadian Wing-Commander Max, parachuted into Morocco in 1942 and driven into Casablanca to meet Marianne (Marion Cotillard). A few nights later in story time, maybe five minutes in film time, at a German embassy reception they use sub-machine guns to assassinate the ambassador and his retinue. Back in England they marry, deliver daughter Anna in the hospital courtyard during an air raid and live happily on his Ministry of Defence salary.
Spy-catcher chief (Simon McBurney) orders Max to answer a precisely-timed midnight phone call, write down the message and leave it where Marianne will see it. That’s the opening gambit in a convoluted plot to confirm or deny whether Marianne is a German spy. If she is, Max is to use his service revolver to execute her. If he does not, he’ll be hanged.
British writer Steven Knight probably created that plot device to help director Robert Zemeckis glue filmgoers to their seats.
Seven decades later, we can allow Zemeckis some leeway in depicting military matters – light aircraft, weapons, uniforms, vehicles, etcetera. Few filmgoers nowadays would know or care whether those are authentic. Many are not.
But Knight’s screenplay for what is otherwise an engaging-enough World War II melodrama has many small defects and one unforgiveable one.
The small defects mostly involve questionable motivation of characters or failure to acknowledge precedent explanations for later behaviour.
The biggie is the spy-catcher’s order to Max. It was illegal and unnecessary. I cannot imagine a high-ranking official being unaware of that. If she was under suspicion, British authorities would already have moved. That’s how they were doing it in those days.
I was appalled to see “Allied” basing its dramatic credentials on such an order. It may not worry filmgoers enjoying an otherwise run-of-the-mill romantic actioner. Knight may simply have failed to do some easy research or, having done it, decided for unfathomable reasons to ignore the result. But either way, it left an enduring bad taste in my mouth.
At Palace Electric, Dendy, Hoyts, and Capitol 6 from Boxing Day