ALLIED. Starring: Marion Cotillard, Brad Pitt, Thierry Fremont, and Simon McBurney. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Rated M (Mature themes, violence, sex, coarse language, nudity, and drug use). 124 min.

This American romantic thriller focuses on the relationship between two secret agents, who work together in World War II in 1942. They fall in love during a joint mission to kill a German official.The film is based loosely on what the scriptwriter for the film (Stephen Knight) claims to be true.

Canadian pilot and Allied Forces intelligence officer, Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) parachutes into french Morocco on a mission in Casablanca to assassinate the German ambassador. He is joined by Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), a French resistance fighter. They had never met before, and to deceive those around them, they pose as Nazi sympathisers, who act as if they are married to each other. After the assassination, which is successful, Max asks Marianne to come to London to be his wife. There, they marry and have a child.

Back in England, some time later, Max is called in and informed by his officious Intelligence Chief (Simon McBurney) that Marianne is suspected of being a German spy, and that she has assumed the identity of a dead woman called Marianne Beausejour. A trap is set by the Special Operations Branch in the UK to find out whether Max's wife is sending information to the Germans. Max is informed that if that is found to be the case, and that the information is sent, he must kill his wife. He is also told if he fails to kill her, he will be executed for treason as her accomplice.

Refusing to wait for that outcome, and believing in his wife, Max embarks on a personal mission to prove his wife's identity. With the time that has elapsed, memories are faint in people's minds, but in the course of his inquiries he locates a former resistance officer, Paul Delamare (Thierry Fremont), who remembers that Marianne was a talented pianist. Max flies back to London and asks his wife to play "The Marseillaise" on the piano. Her response answers his questions, and the film winds its way to a highly dramatic ending. Without spoiling the plot, the film comes to a not-altogether predictable conclusion.

Marion Cotillard is one of the finest actresses in the cinema today. This film does not project the power of her Lady Macbeth in "Macbeth" (2015), or the brilliance of her performance as the leg-less Stephanie in "Rust and Bone" (2012). Rather, Robert Zemeckis, the Director of the movie, has chosen to use her talents differently. He accentuates the glamorous appeal of a woman caught up by the conflicts and the tragic circumstances of war. Cotillard captures that vision very well, and more flamboyantly than Pitt, who interprets the character of Max in a pensive way but true to character.

The movie is a romantic period drama with excellent photography, and beautiful costume design. Under Zemeckis' direction, the movie plays homage in nostalgic fashion to the spy thriller genre of old, and it weaves together drama, romance and politics with the help of two very bankable stars - Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt. Action is infused with romance right throughout the movie - from a murderous assassination, to a sexual coupling between the two in a desert sandstorm, to a gun blast that provides final resolution to the plot-line. The movie entertains, but it does not enthral.

This film focuses on action in espionage thriller format built around a handsome couple. Darker themes concerning private versus public loyalty, the nature of betrayal, and how trust is separated from suspicion in the world of espionage, all swirl beneath the film's surface, but it is the gloss on top that provides the basic pull. As the movie comes to its resolution, it loses control melodramatically, but Cotillard and Pitt are always watchable.This is an enjoyable film that looks good, and entertains by doing expected, and unexpected things in a polished way.

Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting

Paramount Pictures

Released December 26th., 2016

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