Allied Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Pretend to be something long enough and you become it
Solid thrills abound in Allied, a twisty WWII espionage affair, with strong turns from Pitt and Cotillard, but even Robert Zemeckis's attention to period detail can't make up for an anticlimactic final act.After a tough assassination mission, operatives Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) and Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) decide to make a life together but things get complicated when Max's superiors order him to investigate Marianne herself. Zemeckis may not be an obvious choice for helming a grand WWII spy thriller, but he certainly delivers the goods in terms of impressive, immersive period styling, taking us back to Casablanca for a thrilling first act which sets the stage for the rest of the twisty-turny narrative to expand upon. Allowing the characters room to breathe, and giving Pitt and Cotillard some good scenes together, provides a backbone to the rest of the vehicle.Unfortunately it's all, slowly, downhill from there. The set-up of the second act is interesting enough - albeit telegraphed in the trailers so it won't be much of a surprise to many - but there are only a few ways it can be resolved, leaving the ultimate ending one of simple deduction and thus lacking suspense. There are some diverting moments - including a desperate trip behind enemy lines for Pitt's hero - but the pieces don't fit all that well together towards the end (Cotillard struggles to convince mostly because the actions of her character don't convince). Ultimately, these diminishing returns may leave you with a bitter taste, which is a shame considering the strong, impressive start.
Picture QualityAllied parachutes onto UK 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a gorgeous HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p transfer framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. The UHD Blu-ray was reviewed on a Samsung UE55KS8000 Ultra HD TV and a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Shot digitally, with both 6K and 8K source formats, Allied remains a relatively rare native 4K title and it often feels like it shows. It's a near-flawless image, so damn good that, despite the lavish effects work, even its high quality CG can't keep up with the clarity and sheer resolution on offer with the format. The detail is staggering, with weathered clothing, furrowed sweaty brows, and mottled hair visible on close-ups, whilst the backdrops - as noted - are so keenly observed that only really the natural elements remain utterly convincing. Of course it's the opening setpiece in Casablanca that provides some of the most spectacular sequences, with stark changes from the desert settings to the lavish banquets and the nights on the rooftops. If you're not amazed by the end of the first act, then there's likely little on the format that will wow you.
Allied delivers a near-flawless image
Where the Blu-ray looked impressive, even with a noticeable drop in detail and sheer clarity, the real upgrade on Ultra HD Blu-ray comes in the use of the High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Colour Gamut (WCG). Everything from Cotillard's vivid red lipstick to the blue skies set against the golden desert sands pops with vibrancy. The striking range afforded is visible in some of the least likely places too - a slow-motion walk down a corridor sees Pitt intermittently bathed in light from the bulbs overhead, which rises and fades across his face with each step. It's stunning just how intricately graded and detailed this kind of effect is, and the Blu-ray just doesn't have the range to compete.
With superior black levels and no noticeable defects, Allied is a fantastic reference title on the format.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a thoroughly immersive offering, which helps transport you back to WWII-era Casablanca, occupied France and wartorn London. It may not be Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, but it's impressive nonetheless, and leaves little room for criticism or improvement.
Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the front and centre channels, delivered with crystal clarity throughout, juggling numerous languages with aplomb (and commitment from the capably multilingual cast) and disseminating the dialogue over and above the deluge of other elements.
Despite the lack of Atmos or DTS:X, this is a great little demo track
The score provides welcome background to the proceedings; a sweeping affair that may not remain with you beyond the film, but perfectly suits the mood and style of the piece, heightening the tension and enhancing the more dramatic beats. Effects are where the high points lie, however, with gunshots, explosions, and armoured vehicles thundering around the sound stage, whilst the real immersion comes in the form of all-encompassing sandstorms and London blitz attacks which, with the sirens blaring, and anti-aircraft guns blasting really shake up your living room. With power and precision, it's a great little unexpected demo track.
ExtrasA solid, albeit unexceptional, extras package
Paramount haven't gotten onto the whole "porting the extras over to the UHD" bandwagon yet, which is a shame, as it's always a disappointment to have to pop in the BD just to watch the extra features. Beyond this inconvenience though, the actual extras package is solid, albeit unexceptional; a Featurette-based affair with 10 Featurettes offering background into the production. Each running 5-10 minutes in length, there is a little interesting information revealed here, although it doesn't make up for the lack of a commentary. The various key elements looked into include: the production design; the director; the costumes; the visual effects; the music; Pitt and Cotillard; the ensemble supporting cast; the story; the vehicles; and the weapons.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictAllied will likely always be remembered for the off-screen shenanigans of Pitt and Cotillard, which somewhat ironically mirrored the events in the story itself - two people pretending to be a couple end up making that pretence come true. In its own right, it's a solid spy thriller which gets off to a great start but just can't capitalise on the intriguing premise with a compelling conclusion.
This solid spy thriller gets an excellent Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation
However Allied gets an excellent presentation on Ultra HD Blu-ray, with impressive native 4K and a great audio track to boot. Solid extras round out a great package which fans should lap up. It's worth checking out, although not everybody will find it a keeper.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £28.99
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