Romantic spy thriller Allied (2016) is a curious beast. Opening compellingly in French Morocco during World War II, it chronicles the mission of Max Vatan (Brad Pitt), a Canadian air officer and intelligence agent sent to Casablanca on a risky, top secret mission. His accomplice: an agent-in-place, Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), an extraordinary French Resistance agent who has charmed her way into the Vichy government’s good graces. Posing as husband and wife, they work together to carry out a dangerous assignment before returning to London upon its successful completion—this time, as actual husband and wife. Marianne truly is a highly convincing spy, however, so when she comes under suspicion of being a German plant, Max has to make a decision: play along with his superiors’ plan to test her, or go rogue to prove her innocence.
The first forty minutes or so of Allied is first-rate, twisty spy fare, carried largely by Cotillard’s riveting, hair-splitting performance to both earn the viewer’s trust and make them suspicious. The production values are top notch, contributing to an epic feel, and especially in the early going the story trusts the audience’s intelligence, subtly maneuvering puzzle pieces into place. During the lengthy middle act, however, the script goes in disappointingly expected directions. Seasoned spy fans aren’t likely to be surprised by the major plot turns. Pitt delivers a capable, if taciturn, lead performance, not quite rising to Cotillard’s level. While the final ten minutes turn the tables adroitly, as the mystery’s facets start falling into place, the story ultimately ends in an unsurprising final moment, followed by a little too much button-pushing sentimentality. Director Robert Zemeckis delivers plenty of memorable shots and setpieces, the action and spectacle is eye-catching, and the film engages throughout—it is, by and large, a successful spy film. But in the end, it doesn’t entirely satisfy.