Despite trailers which depict Brad Pitt spraying machine guns at Nazis (recalling a bit of his run in Inglorious Basterds) Allied reaches for its few minutes of action. Those moments glance a film dealing in betrayal and romance once past the flailing first hour. It’s significant time spent to establish this story of wartime misdirection.
Allied makes it difficult not to fall for its locations, sitting Pitt and co-star Marion Cotillard down at a cozy cafe in Casablanca’s heat to swoon for each other. Echoes of classic cinema reside here. If not Casablanca, then France. Later, a comfortable countryside. Minute-to-minute, Allied designs an unusually gorgeous war.
A romance blossoms, both Pitt and Cotillard playing spies seeking to silence the German regime. They’re meant for each other. The film eventually caves to eye rolling melodrama – nearly enough to cash out – before finally discovering its footing. Allied builds a generous, even stellar veil of paranoia with a penetrating doubt about identities and allegiances. Spies will be spies.
On a greater scale, Allied is distinctly World War II, but measured on a different scale than gunplay. It’s a film concerned with how devastating the war was, not in body count, but toll of emotionl manipulation, leading to impossible revelations as to the truth. The tension is natural, bold and well executed as the camera sits on Pitt’s face, allowing performance to lead. Director Robert Zemeckis exhibits confidence in the casting, as if there were reasons to doubt.
Allied’s heart sits primarily in silence…
Allied’s heart sits primarily in silence…
Still, it’s difficult to shake the two-films-in-one styling. Allied’s rudimentary first hour, with an eye-rolling sandstorm sex scene, feels lured from the pages of Nicolas Sparks. So too does a birthing sequence, layered with ridiculous, unnecessary action. The daring wartime romance is interrupted by a touch of international espionage before domestication begins to flatline the story.
The second hour holds the merit – it’s a genuine tale of devotion and honesty, debating how far one will go for their country or their family when the choice presents. That choice, one of greater good and personal feelings, drives the thematic power of Allied. Pitt’s Max Vatan stacks up his overwhelming guilt, putting lives at risk for information. He’s willing for the sake of a possible truth.
It works, to the extent Allied doesn’t push too far or create unnecessary drama. A nighttime jail raid interrupted by Nazis seems terribly convenient for the narrative, ultimately a pointless segment designed purely for spectacle. Allied’s heart sits primarily in silence, moody, brooding, with a thin trust waiting to be broken. When focused, it’s a genuine thriller.
While not cinematography frequently conducive to ravishing detail, the natural (and unnatural) scenery delivers. Scenes in the digital deserts of Casablanca resolve the finest sand grains while those in a small French town pick up the tiniest of cobblestones. Generously resolved uniforms and costumes (Oscar nominated) swell with detail. One shot with a stained glass window at a distance is a marvel of texture.
However, it’s a movie swelling with HDR-driven sights. Stunning depth on moonlit rooftops deliver extensive range, filling the screen with careful shadows. Some crush is, however, evident. A bountiful contrast is enriched by light sources, an early pan around a chandelier stunning with its brightness and preserved detail.
Color palettes sway between chillier drama and warmed romantic interludes. A handful of scenes involve richer saturation, in particular a daytime picnic with bright grass and dense blue skies. Flesh tones, when possible, stay natural.
Minimal noise seeps into the image, either restrained by the black levels or well resolved by Paramount’s disc to the point of rendering it undetectable.
Copy much of the above, but add in additional crushing and a jump in noise. During a nighttime sequence, the field used to land a plane buzzes with digital artifacts. Scenes where noise is limited on the UHD flare up on the standard disc.
Those scenes though are few. Much of Allied maintains its fidelity, providing striking close-ups and pleasing contrast. Locations offer thick, well managed scenery, especially during those scenes in the small French village. Stone work carries fantastic fine detail without any noted aliasing/shimmering despite the bevy of objects usually succumbing to such a flaw.
Both the UHD and Blu-ray carry the same DTS-HD 5.1 track, a disappointment considering the expectations of new audio formats. The mix is owned by ambiance, some startlingly good. A bird chirping in Casablanca forced a pause in the movie to make sure the critter hadn’t slipped into the house. Parties cater to the lively atmosphere, spreading chatter or clanking glasses about.
The handful of action scenes oddly focus on the front soundstage. It’s pleasing – gunfire panning or locking into a front channel – if a touch empty. At its best, a plane crashes down from overhead, sweeping front to back in a pristine bit of imaging. Dynamics run strong if not aggressive, using the LFE for a bit of pop, while the reserved sound design keeps things level.
While the UHD is empty, it’s up to the Blu-ray to house a 10-part making of, running an hour with each piece separated by topic. Story, casting, characters, costumes, effects, etc. all have their bit to play in a somewhat generic look behind-the-scenes.
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