From the marketing, and the appearance of Brad Pitt, you could be fooled into thinking Allied is the Mr. & Mrs. Smith of World War II.
Certainly there are some similarities, although Allied takes itself much more seriously. Pitt’s Max Vatan and his faux wife Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard) both play undercover agents with the mission to murder the German ambassador. Eventually they develop feelings for each other, get married and have a child - but tensions rise as Beauséjour is suspected of being a spy. If she is, Vatan will have to assassinate her.
It’s difficult to work out who the film is really aimed at. The plot is straightforward, so those expecting shocking revelations or clever mind-games will be left wanting, and the tonal shift from light-hearted espionage to dramatic treachery leaves the film feeling gloomy but without any particular significance.
Ultimately, there’s no reason to care about Vatan and Beauséjour’s relationship, and the theme of love versus duty that the film seems desperate to put to the forefront is a path we’ve walked many times.
If we had to encapsulate the essence of the film in a single motion, it would be a shrug. It's not that it's necessarily bad, it just doesn't have anything new to bring to the table.
But never let it be said Paramount hasn’t put on a good show. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design, and it’s easy to see why.
The number of close-ups that Allied has, showing off the textures in the colourful outfits and the detail in Vatan’s angsty expressions, means this Blu-ray will make for an adequate test of detail on any HD screen.
You’ll also need something with a good sense of colour, too - during the brightly lit scenes in Casablancan restaurants, the elegant whites of Beauséjour’s outfits pop. Allied is a film that errs towards vivacity in its colour palette, especially towards the reds and yellows, so your home cinema set-up will have to handle it without exaggeration.
When Vetan and Beauséjour go shooting in the desert (as practice for their mission) the whites in the sand need to be sophisticatedly rendered or detail will go astray.
Checking out black levels is a little more difficult, however. The closest you’ll get to really digging down into the darkness is the evening party scene approximately an hour and a half into the film, but even then it’s more blue and grey than true black.
And unfortunately the film is lacking in any major action sequence that will allow you to properly gauge how well your television or Blu-ray player can manage movement.
Everything’s a little too slow and domestic, which isn’t a flaw in itself, but give us a good James Bond-esque fight scene like in From Russia with Love or the London bus chase sequence in Live and Let Die any day to really put our TV to the test.
Happily, we get luckier with Allied’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. There’s always a multitude of audio information coming from this film - from the moment the two leading actors meet in a jazz club there are trumpets and violins coming from all angles, mixed in with the low-level hum of French chatter. Your system needs to keep each instrument organised to really keep you immersed in the scene.
Fast-forward to Vetan and Beauséjour’s sex-scene in a car during a sandstorm - your speakers’ ability handle small-scale dynamism will be challenged as the billowing sand moves from right to left, rippling across the metal bonnet.
And on a larger scale, the rumbling gunfire of the blitz gives you the more aggressive elements: as a plane drops out of the sky, the high-pitched whine of its descent should be full of tension, and contrast with the immediate silence once it’s hit the ground.
There’s nothing particularly notable about Allied. The stakes are never high enough to feel like the characters' actions are significant, and many of the sequences are forgettable. It's another World War II film to add to the already-saturated genre.
There’s not much done on the audio or visual side, either. You can cherrypick scenes that make a good trial for your home cinema set-up, but it doesn’t have the range necessary to fully test your system - and at the end of the day isn’t exciting enough to make up for it.
- Story of Allied
- From Stages to Sahara
- Through the Lens
- A Stitch in Timefilm.
- 'Til Death Do Us Part
- Guys and Gals
- Lights, Pixels, Action
- Behind the Wheel
- Locked and Loaded
- That Swingin' Sound