Robert Zemeckis is fascinated with fakery. Best known for directing the Back to the Future trilogy and Forrest Gump, his recent career has been steeped in artifice. In motion-capture animated films like The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol, he merrily sleighed into the heart of the uncanny valley; meanwhile, last year’s The Walk showcased both the World Trade Centre (fake) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s French accent (faker).
From the trailers, the director’s latest — Allied, a wartime espionage thriller/marital drama starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard — looks to be another step along the tightrope from facsimile to reality, from Beowulf to World War II.
In actuality, the film is a step backwards of sorts: a tribute to classic Hollywood (in particular, Casablanca) which recognises that true emotion rings through whether one’s story is told on a Hollywood soundstage or swathed in cutting-edge CGI. Accordingly, Allied is an old-fashioned slice of adult-orientated entertainment like “they used to make”, where impossibly attractive movie stars tackle big emotions rather than big explosions. (Though there are a couple of those, too.)