Max Vatan is flying to meet his wife.
Now, under most circumstances, that might not seem too remarkable. Max's situation, however, is a bit more … dramatic.
The Canadian-born pilot, who now serves with the British Royal Air Force, is on his way to meet her after parachuting into the dunes of Nazi-occupied French Morocco in 1942. Soon, a car meets him on a dusty road, a car that will take him to his beautiful French wife, Marianne Beauséjour. In—where else?—Casablanca.
Oh, there's one other thing: Max has never actually met his wife. That's because she's a French spy and he's serving as one too. Their mission together? To play the part of a French couple, ingratiate themselves with a local Nazi leader named Hobar, then assassinate a German ambassador who's expected to attend a party that Hobar is throwing.
Accomplishing that mission will require looking like a loving husband and wife, which will take a bit of coaching and coaxing on Marianne's part.
You see, Max is determined not to let Marianne's charm and beauty become a distraction. He knows from experience that such indulgences can be fatal in the field, that they can cloud one's professional judgement.
So Max is all business. Right up to the moment the pair finds themselves alone in a car in a sandstorm in the hours leading up to assassination attempt, that is. Knowing there's a good chance that they may not make it out alive, Max and Marianne make love in the car, then make good on their bloody assignment and …
… actually make it out of Casablanca alive.
They're soon married back in England—this time, for real—have a beautiful baby girl (Anna) and are seemingly well on their way to happily ever after. (Never mind the German bombs still falling on Londoners during the brutal Blitz.)
But the road to marital bliss is notorious for its unexpected curves. And for Max, what comes next is more akin to driving off a cliff.
And it's something that will test his commitment to Marianne in ways he never dreamed.
[Note: Spoilers are contained in the following sections.]
Max and Marianne are deeply in love and utterly devoted to one another once they tie the knot after their dramatic mission. They love their daughter, and they love being a family together. All that love gets radically sifted, however, when Max is called into the bowels of a British intelligence agency: He's bluntly told that his wife is under suspicion of being a German sleeper agent.
No way. No way, Max says. No chance. He tries to argue that they bravely, successfully assassinated a German ambassador together (which we're supposed to see as a good thing in the context of the Allies' war effort). No matter, the intelligence official says. All the info—and there's actually quite a lot of it—points to Marianne.
Max's new assignment: leaving confidential information laying around to see if it's leaked to the Germans. If it is, they'll know Marianne is indeed the spy they're looking for.
Thus, Max finds himself tied in an ethical bind of titanic proportions. He grudgingly carries out his orders, leaving the information out as he was instructed to do. But he also goes to great lengths to try to prove his beloved wife's innocence.
Shortly after Max arrives in Casablanca, Marianne gives him a cross to wear and says, "I told everyone you're quite a serious Catholic." Marianne tells Max, "This is really me, as I am, before God."
In bomb-battered London, someone quips, "Go to h---," and the other person responds, "This is hell." A scene takes place in a hospital chapel with stained glass windows depicting angels in the background.
Max and Marianne do a good job of pretending they're married when they're in public, including sharing a big, passionate kiss literally moments after they've met and practically before they've even spoken to each other. Marianne coaches Max on how husbands in Casablanca behave, including the custom of men retreating to their roofs after making love to their wives.
Marianne wears a variety of form-fitting outfits. We also see her in clingy nighties. Max (and we) glimpse some side breast as she changes behind a screen. Early on, she unbuttons her shirt to test if Max can be seduced. "I know you're armed with a weapon," she teases. "I'm just checking [to see that] the safety's engaged." Max resists at that point, essentially saying that having sex with fellow spies gets people killed. (Elsewhere, a colleague tells Max, "Marriages made in the field never work.")
Eventually, Max's resolute resistance falls. Three passionate sex scenes, where both Max and Marianne are either clothed or mostly covered, include explicit motions. One shows his bare backside. It's also obvious while Max is on an important phone call that Marianne is doing things to him under the covers.
Max's sister, Bridget, is in a lesbian relationship. In fact, the wartime culture in Britain is depicted as quite decadent and hedonistic, with Bridget saying of her open, cohabiting relationship with another woman, "No one cares who does what to whom."
Marianne throws a party that includes multiple couples apparently heading off to various bedrooms to have sex. (Marianne dispatches Max to check to make sure no one's doing that in the same room as their sleeping baby). We hear couples knocking against walls and floors. One couple is in a kitchen closet, the door of which Max opens to reveal a topless, giggling woman. (Max tells them to go outside.) Other couples are shown kissing passionately. A group of guys asks Bridget and her partner to kiss in front of them, a request the two women oblige.
Max and Marianne's successful assassination plot takes place at a ball where they've hidden automatic weapons. They shoot the ambassador, and about ten or so other German soldiers and civilians. One of the civilians Marianne guns down is the husband of a good friend, who looks at her with an expression of horror, shock and disbelief when Marianne coolly kills the man.
Max chokes a German officer to death in a phone booth, then shoves a piece of food deep into his throat to make it look as if the man choked. A superior tells Max that if he fails to follow through on subsequent orders to execute Marianne if she proves to be a spy, he'll be charged with high treason and hanged. Max tries to get a young British pilot to land in France to gather information for him, an unethical request that (we hear) gets the young pilot killed.
Max talks to an old friend in a hospital who's had much of his face essentially blown off. Max also flies to France to talk with a French resistance fighter. That information-gathering attempt goes badly wrong, resulting in a shoot-out with a group of German soldiers who mostly end up shot or blown up by a grenade. Max calmly shoots three badly wounded German soldiers to make sure they're dead.
Two other German spies in England are shot and killed; we see one shooting as well as muzzle flashes behind a curtain with the other spy. Someone commits suicide, pointing a gun underneath the jaw and pulling the trigger.
Several scenes show German bombers dropping ordnance on an already-devastated London. One bomber gets hit with anti-aircraft fire and crashes close to Max and Marianne's house.
The hospital where Marianne is having baby is literally being bombed during the delivery. Marianne's screaming on a gurney that's been rolled outside as bombs fall all around.
Crude or Profane Language
More than 15 f-words. At least one s-word. God's name is abused four times (twice paired with "d--n"). Jesus' name is misused once. We hear seven uses of "h---" as well as one use each of "d-mmit" and the British vulgarity "bloody."
Drug and Alcohol Content
People drink various alcoholic beverage (wine, beer, whisky, brandy) and smoke (cigarettes, pipes). Someone says that the only two things not being rationed in London are "champagne and sex." Max forcefully questions a one-armed man who's very drunk.
We see a pilot with a bottle of blue pills. He says of his drug use, "Amphetamines 'til takeoff, barbiturates when I get back."
Other Negative Elements
Lies, deception and ethical conundrums are part and parcel of a spy's life—a reality that lands Max and Marianne in a particularly awful spot. Marianne says of her strategy for being a good spy, "I keep the emotions real. That's why it works." Max recalls that conversation, and it causes him to wonder how much of her affection for him has been real and how much has been staged.
Max breaks into a pub. Two people vomit.
Allied is several things all at once: a racy, violent spy romance. A war movie. And an ethical brain twister. After all, what are you supposed to do when you discover that your beautiful, devoted, happy, beloved wife, the mother of your child, may be an enemy spy?
It's a no-win situation, but Max tries to find a way out anyway. Unfortunately, he's left with a barrage of ethically uncomfortable options. He feels like he's forced to steal lie and cheat to serve what he sees is a greater good.
All of these actions could be viewed as acts of mercy toward someone else. All of them are nonetheless still deeply ethically and morally flawed. After all, how do you find the right way forward when all of the choices left to you are all wrong, one way are another?
The film doesn't really try to answer that thorny question. It just asks us to ponder it—brutally. An old-fashioned, happily-ever-after war movie Allied ain't.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Brad Pitt as Max Vatan; Marion Cotillard as Marianne Marianne Beauséjour; Jared Harris as Frank Heslop; Lizzy Caplan as Bridget Vatan; Anton Lesser as Emmanuel Lombard; August Diehl as Hobar; Marion Bailey as Mrs. Sinclair; Simon McBurney as S.O.E. Official
November 23, 2016