WWII thriller ‘Al­lied’ is old-fash­ioned in the best way

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - SPOTLIGHT - NY­TIMES NEWS SER­VICE

It’s not enough to say that “Al­lied” is set in the 1940s. It’s set in the 1940s of col­lec­tive i mag­i­na­tion. A fair por­tion of it takes place in “Casablanca.” The mu­si­cal score, by Alan Sil­vestri, has the sad­ness and por­tent of the mu­sic heard in clas­sic World War II doc­u­men­taries such as “The World at War.” There’s a lush­ness to the photography that feels like a color ana­logue to the soft- fo­cus black- and­white photography of Hol­ly­wood in the war years.

Most im­por­tant of all, “Al­lied” finds ac­tual movie stars for the lead roles, and di­rec­tor Robert Ze­meckis treats them like movie stars, mak­ing their faces the lo­cus of all mean­ing and their in­ter­ac­tion the stuff of ro­man­tic fan­tasy. He cre­ates a movie that is old- fash­ioned in ev­ery pos­si­ble good way, but that in no way seems passe or cliched.

Com­ing off “Al­lied,” there were ru­mors that its stars, Brad Pitt and Mar­ion Cotil­lard, were hav­ing an affair dur­ing its mak­ing. As­sum­ing that’s not true, it’s still un­der­stand­able how peo­ple could think so or even want it to be true. In the midst of a movie- made ro­man­tic at­mos­phere and de­pict­ing the kind of life- and­death stakes that can only in­ten­sify an aura of ex­cite­ment and long­ing, Pitt and Cotil­lard make us be­lieve that some­thing is build­ing be­tween them from their first mo­ments on-screen.

Writ­ten by Steven Knight (“Eastern Prom­ises,” “Locke”) and loosely based on real events, “Al­lied” be­gins with a covert op­er­a­tion in Morocco. Max (Pitt), a Cana­dian flu­ent in French, is parachuted into the desert and makes his way into Casablanca. With a quick shave and a change of clothes, he looks as im­pec­ca­ble as Cary Grant. He goes to the ren­dezvous point, a night­club, where he meets the fel­low spy pos­ing as his wife, Mar­i­anne (Cotil­lard).

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