Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Allied 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Academy Award-winning director Robert Zemeckis’ (Forrest Gump, Cast Away) seductive thriller ALLIED makes its home entertainment debut on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand February 28, 2017 from Paramount Home Media Distribution. The film arrives two weeks early on Digital HD February 14. Oscar winners Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard star as Max Vatan and Marianne Beauséjour, 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. The film features an outstanding supporting cast including Lizzy Caplan (“Masters of Sex”), Jared Harris (“The Crown”), August Diehl (Inglourious Basterds) and Matthew Goode (“Downton Abbey”). In addition, ALLIED’s sumptuous and unforgettable costumes earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design.
Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
It's been awhile since I've seen a new movie that takes place during World War II, so I was happy to hear about this film, especially with the cast involved and with Robert Zemeckis as the director. Zemeckis is one of my favorite directors and I was intrigued to see what he would do with this kind of movie as it's a little out of his usual oeuvre. The end result is Allied, a drama that likes to occasionally venture into thriller territory but never quite gets there. The elements are all there, but the decisions made by the writer and director keep the film from reaching its full potential as a twisty is she or isn't she thriller.

Set in 1942, intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is sent to Casablanca to assist in the assassination of the German ambassador with the help of a French Resistance fighter named Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard). They pose as husband and wife, with Marianne having already infiltrated the high society that the ambassador travels in. She was the only survivor of her resistance cell in France that had been compromised and killed. 

Despite their attraction to each other, Max and Marianne agree that giving into their feelings would jeopardize their mission and put them in danger. Despite their best intentions, they do fall in love and become intimate when they rationalize that they may not survive their mission to act on their feelings later. When they day comes and they join the reception for the German ambassador, they not only succeed in their plan but manage to escape to England as well. Thrilled to have survived, the two agree to get married and live in England, where they remain happy and a year later they welcome the birth of their daughter.

Life for them is ideal (as much as it can be during wartime) until Max is told to report to his superiors Frank Heslop (Jared Harris) and the Special Operations Executive agent (Simon McBurney) who believe that Marianne is a German spy. They want to test her by running a "blue dye" operation where Max will receive a call and write down information and what and see if she shares it with her German handlers. Max is furious and doesn't believe them, but has little choice but to go along with the operation. Determined to prove her innocence, Max begins his own investigation against orders, trying to unravel her past to learn whether or not she's the woman he thinks he married.

While I enjoyed this film, I do think it could have been better and a lot more of a thriller than it ended up being. Movies like No Way Out ratcheted up the suspense which really adds a lot to the "are they a spy or not" plot. The cast is fine in their roles with both actors never straying too far from their established screen personas, especially Marion Cotillard who has long perfected playing these kind of mysterious women. Allied seems to want to have it all - be a serious drama and a wartime thriller, which it really doesn't pull of completely for either. Robert Zemeckis does a good job establishing the blitz filled atmosphere and get good performances from the cast, but I expected a lot more from him.
Video (5 out of 5 stars)
Allied was reportedly shot at 6K and 8K resolution and finished in 4K for this release and you can tell the difference, especially when compared to the included Blu-ray. Detail in the UHD version is astounding and the colors and textures are amazingly fine and detailed. Both version are reference quality for their respective formats, but the UHD version is hands down the winner. 
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Allied's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is the same one found on both versions and it's a very effective lossless track. It handles both the action and dramatic scenes equally well and the dialogue is clear and clean sounding. The various fight scenes (both on ground and during the blitz sequences) really come to life and the surround channels add a lot of immersion. This is an excellent mix that fans will enjoy. 
Extras (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
All of the extras are found on the Blu-ray disc as none of them are included on the UHD version although they are all in high definition and very brief. A digital copy of the film is also included.

  • Story of Allied - A short look at the plot of the film and the characters that inhabit it. 
  • From Stages to the Sahara: The Production Design of Allied - A ten minute look at the film's production design and the intentions behind the look of the film. 
  • Through the Lens: Directing with Robert Zemeckis - A talk with the cast and crew about their feelings about working with Zemeckis and his approach to the film. 
  • A Stitch in Time: The Costumes of Allied - A quick look a the costumes for the film with costume designer Joanna Johnston who has worked with Robert Zemeckis for a long time.
  • 'Til Death Do Us Part: Max and Marianne - A look at the main characters of the film and the actors that played them. 
  • Guys and Gals: The Ensemble Cast - A look at the supporting characters and the actors that played them, 
  • Lights, Pixels, ACTION! The Visual Effects of Allied - A quick look at some of the key scenes in the movie that were improved upon with digital effects. 
  • Behind the Wheel: The Vehicles of Allied - A very quick look at the various cars and military vehicles in the film. 
  • Locked and Loaded: The Weapons of Allied - A three and half minute look at the various weapons in the film. 
  • That Swingin' Sound: The Music of Allied - The film's composer and longtime Zemeckis collaborator Alan Silvestri added his magic touch to the film and we hear how the score helps tell the story.  
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
Allied is a decent film that could have been much better if it had picked just one area to focus on - a drama or as a thriller. The cast are all good in their roles and both the UHD and the Blu-ray offer superb video and audio presentations. The extras are way too brief to offer much value, but overall this is still a good package for fans.

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