With an $85 million budget and mega-watt star-power, Allied is an easy target for criticism. First, there’s the choice to set part of it in Casablanca, which, for many, constitutes hallowed ground; yet, we watched Casablanca, again, days before seeing Allied, and the similarities are, at best, facile and fleeting. A better comparison would be to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, also starring Pitt, and if you throw in the visual similarities to films like The English Patient, you might say that Allied is not particularly original. And you’d be right, but you’d be missing the point: Allied is not a piece of art, it’s pure entertainment. Zemeckis has made a neoclassical Hollywood genre film that focuses on plot rather than on characters’ interiority; which is fine because movies aren’t generally good for interiority. Besides, the filmmaking in Allied is adroit. Each scene is set up slowly, but without too much fuss; sometimes the camera roams, sometimes it’s a slow zoom, and usually, the first shot of a scene is something extraneous, like the laddered stockings of a woman exiting the Underground. These little touches, as well as the grand flourishes of the set pieces, give Allied texture. Moreover, thanks to its relatively huge budget, its scenes aren’t underpopulated, its production doesn’t seem threadbare. There are problems, of course. The biggest is that the trailer gives away the Big Twist, which slackens a lot of the tension that Zemeckis effectively builds in his slow-burn scenes. That the studio was so uncreative and risk averse about how they promoted this movie is not surprising. But it is sad. Had the Big Twist been concealed, the movie may have had stronger word-of-mouth. Instead, it flopped. $85 million may be a drop in the bucket for a studio, but it sends a signal: the audience isn’t demanding lavish, R-rated spectacles. So we’ll get sanitized, infantalized happily-ever-after PG-13 superhero spectacles, instead. Bravo.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White