As an overenthusiastic fan of What Lies Beneath, Robert Zemeckis’ earlier evocation of a classic movie format (in that case Hitchcock), I was probably more open than most to Allied, his attempt to recreate a wartime romantic suspense picture along the lines of Casablanca and Notorious (Hitchcock again). So take it with a grain of salt when I say that Allied is a scintillating work of cinematic nostalgia (the costumes alone!), if one that’s limited by a few contemporary elements (green screens, Brad Pitt). Pitt plays Max Vatan, a Canadian agent sent by the British to team up with French Resistance fighter Marianne Beauséjour in 1942 North Africa. There they pose as a married couple as part of an assassination plot and seem to fall in love—although that assumption comes under question when Max’s superiors begin to look askance at Marianne back in London. The fact that Pitt’s Max (might be) a step behind Cotillard’s Marianne the whole time makes it difficult to tell whether his fogginess is a matter of performance or character. He’s fine in the film—and as a couple they create genuine sparks, enough to evoke, in one memorable sequence, a literal and metaphorical sandstorm—yet Cotillard has an effortlessness Pitt can’t match. Still, as a suspenseful consideration of gender roles—in spycraft and in everyday life—Allied functions as a provocative cold war of the sexes. Max’s reliance on detached physicality (he can murder swiftly and viciously if he has to) is ultimately no match for Marianne’s emotional intelligence. Have fun debating afterwards if that makes Allied a throwback in retrograde ways, or simply perceptive.