I’m a big fan of the spy/espionage subgenre of dramas, thrillers and action films. Whether it be James Bond, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Jason Bourne or Bridge of Spies, I’m down for some those deceitful antics. While 2015 was the year of the spy film (Or return, there were a lot), 2016 was of course rather light. It had me looking forward to this Marion Cotillard (love her) and Brad Pitt team up, Allied. I didn’t make it to the theater, and medicore reviews led me to feel I had no rush to get there. However, I’m still excited to check it out on the new 4K UHD Blu-ray that will be available February 28th.
Max Vatan and Marianne Beauséjour are two of the world’s deadliest spies, who fall in love while undercover on a top-secret mission and marry during World War II. But when Max learns his wife may be secretly conspiring with the enemy, he has only 72 hours to prove her innocence and save his family before he must do the unthinkable.
Robert Zemeckis’ spy thriller manages to hit good beats of spy films and play some convincing drama that keeps a viewer, hoping, guessing and in the shoes of Brad Pitt. While, yes, this is a more dramatic, slower story to tell, it does have a bit of pacing issues, crafting a bit of an uneven experience. To the film’s credit, it does manage to pick things up in the right spots. For example, our opening act runs a little long mainly due to things starting to dry up. It starts out intriguing as the viewer is trying to piece things together, but is ultimately a bit too quiet. Things do jolt into action and grab your attention as it takes it turn. There are spots later in the second act that start doing more of the same as well.
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard do work quite well here, even when the script might not be letting them. They carry some good chemistry (So good, maybe, that it ended one marriage? Okay, I’ll stop), which really helps you feel the crux and conflict of the mystery that Pitt must face in the film. Maybe I have an eternal crush on Cotillard, but she’s absolutely dynamite in these sort of “Is she good? Is she bad? Is it both?” kind of roles similar to the like of that in Inception. Cotillard always evokes this classic, old Hollywood feel and is never not amazing in period pieces. Pitt manages to carry that classic touch as well with himself here as well.
I really found the cinematography Zemeckis’ brought this film to life with quite lovely. Its got a sense of color and rich look that really romances the era. On one of the featurettes they show the previsualization art used to prep the film and it is a series of incredibly gorgeous paintings. Granted, a lot of what I’m looking at isn’t real, but Zemeckis’ is so good at it that you really can’t figure out a lot of what is and what isn’t actually present.
Allied is a decent low key, personal spy drama. Its a patient one, that takes its time, but manages to still keep hit points where it ramps up the excitement and thrills. In a few spots it does drag or just feel like its lost some focus, but it all does count. Just, some things are more interesting than others. For a modern spy film, its a little bit better than average one, but still novel and worth a gander if you’ve not been able to check it out.
Encoding: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Clarity/Detail: Allied comes in with a very good 4K transfer, easily one-upping its Blu-ray counterpart. The HDR is quite naturally applied, but I don’t think is as wow’ing as some titles have been in the past. Where the image really stands out is in its sharpness and crispness. This has a really clean and just smoothly functioning picture. This also helps the attention to detail on textures, clothing, surfaces and the like. While not being one the best ever in these early days of 4K UHD, Allied still carries quite a fantastic looking picture.
Depth: One of the stronger aspects of this image is how 3 dimensional it appears. It may be due to a heavy use of cosmetic CGI in structuring the backdrops of scenes, but the distancing and separation between an actor and the backgrounds is really impressive. Movement is also very smooth and clean with not a hint of blurring. Characters and objects do come through in the foreground as full and well rounded in appearance.
Black Levels: Blacks are pretty rich and feature plenty of nuances to help carry a lot of scenes in the film. There are many scenes in lower lit rooms and darkened areas that manage to feature different tints and tones in the blacks that keep detail coming through and images stable.
Color Reproduction: While there is a lot of desert followed by a lot of rainy, dreary city streets in the movie, there are some lovely colors. Reds pop good on uniform patches as well as Nazi arm bands. Some of Marion Cotillard’s outfits look quite gorgeous with the HDR colors pushing them. Light fixtures give a little extra oompf, glowing more. Impressively its the more natural touches, like a teal set of stairs or the green grass that make this such a wholesome image and don’t abuse, but showcase the HDR keeping it real.
Flesh Tones: Skin tones are a hair colder in some spots, like the final act (Depends on the aesthetic of the scene), but for the most part a natural look is given off. Facial details, like make-up, wrinkles, stubble, lip texture, blood splatter and more come through quite good at most distances, primarily medium shots and close up shots. Skin itself is really strong and full, almost popping a bit, but still looking lifelike and very natural.
Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Dynamics: Surprisingly, this not only isn’t sporting an Atmos track, this isn’t even 7.1. What we get is a solid 5.1 mix. There’s a shootout in the first act of the film that is quite precise and brings a nice lifelike feel to your living room. The film’s effects and ambiance do bring a realistic quality to the whole thing and brings a feeling of being there to all environments. Effects aren’t overdone, but they are plenty layered and carry some good depth. Overall, a solid track, but it feels like it also could have had more punch to it and manages to just be above average but nothing tremendous.
Low Frequency Extension: Gunfire, bombings, engines, planes roaring overhead, doors slamming and glass shattering are some of the things that go bump bump in your subwoofer.
Surround Sound Presentation: This 5 channel mix pulls a very accurate depiction of sets with speakers being used with precision. Nothing is wasted and nothing is really forced. Some terrific ambiance is used, filling the room with something like rain while in a house or a sandstorm outside when in a car. Movement is accurate and bullets fly with plenty of fun.
Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is good, clean and audible. If feels just a hair muffled or set back lower within the mix.
Allied comes with the Blu-ray edition and UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film. All bonus materials appear on the Blu-ray disc and features a “Play All” function.
Story of Allied (HD, 5:13) – The inspiration for the the story for the screenplay is told and people discuss the vibe of the WWII era with which the film is set.
From Stages to the Sahara: The Production Design of Allied (HD, 10:10) – This goes over Robert Zemeckis’ ability to not have to be in the field to get the scenes he wants and his ability to believably adapt settings to a stage/set. Features the artwork used for the design of the film.
Through the Lens: Directing with Robert Zemeckis (HD, 8:49) – A featurette going over what its like to work with Robert Zemeckis while he goes over how important the camera is to every scene of his movies.
A Stitch in Time: The Costumes of Allied (HD, 8:40) – Here we have a discussion over the apparel in the film, with the costume designer Zemeckis has been using since Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It features sketches and designs.
Til Death Do Us Part: Max and Marianne (HD, 5:52) – A piece on how Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt embody the old Hollywood feel that was necessary to tell this movie. It also goes over the actors’ preparation for the role and their appreciation for one another as well as their chemistry onscreen.
Guys and Gals: The Ensemble Cast (HD, 5:22) – This is the one that goes over how perfect and great the rest of the cast not named Brad Pitt or Marion Cotillard are in the movie.
Lights, Pixels, ACTION! The Visual Effects of Allied (HD, 9:33) – An interesting piece that goes over the CGI used in the film, where we get side by sides and reveals of the raw footage vs the finished product. The visual effects artists also discuss some of their challenges when crafting these looks as well.
Behind the Wheel: The Vehicles of Allied (HD, 3:30) – Talks about the cars and planes in the film and how key they are to selling the belief you are in the moment or the time period set in the film.
Locked and Loaded: The Weapons of Allied (HD, 3:35) – Guess what this one talks about? Yup, the guns, bombs and such that possibly could have been used during this time period. They ended up widdling it down to the most popular of the era as to be recognizable to whoever would know.
That Swingin’ Sound: The Music of Allied (HD, 7:06) – Here’s a piece on the score of the film, featuring the orchestra recording it. Which, honestly, I felt was one of the stronger aspects of the film, so this was cool to see.
Allied is a pretty solid spy thriller/romantic drama backed by good turns by its leading stars. Its 4K UHD Blu-ray debut is a worthy one and a good example of an upgrade over the previous format. Visually, its got an image that you really couldn’t ask for better. Audio-wise, the 5.1 is a little disappointing to see, but the track is still solid. Extras cover just about everything going on with the production of the film. Its worthwhile buy if you’re looking to purchase.