Aiming to be an old-fashioned World War II drama in the vein of Casablanca, Robert Zemeckis’ Allied is a handsome spy thriller that sputters during its first half before picking up steam during its second. Despite its flaws, it’s an entertaining picture with some gorgeous locales, two big name stars who initially struggle to find chemistry, and a few exciting scenes of the type you’d expect from an espionage thriller.

As the film opens, Brad Pitt’s intelligence officer Max Vatan has been assigned to Casablanca at the height of World War II where he will be teamed up with Marion Cotillard’s Marianne Beausejour, a French officer who pretends to be his wife.

While the filmmakers do a solid job of recreating a 1940s era souk during the duo’s stint in Morocco – but also, unfortunately, a silly sex scene during a sandstorm – the picture’s first half feels too movie-ish. In other words, the dialogue, performances and narrative give off the impression that the filmmakers are trying too hard to recapture the bygone era of Hollywood moviemaking. As a result, some of the early scenes feel creaky.

It’s around the time that Max and Marianne are given an assignment to assassinate a Nazi ambassador that the proceedings begin to pick up. After that thrilling mission, the pair finds that they are in love and Max, who is stationed in England, asks Marianne to become his wife and return home with him.

But after arriving in England, Max is put to an even greater test when his superiors tell him they believe that Marianne is a German spy and that he must investigate his wife and, if necessary, execute her. Max’s investigation leads to a cat-and-mouse game between the couple and a few exciting – if slightly preposterous – situations for Max, including a flight into enemy territory where Max must attempt to extract information from a drunk French prisoner in a holding cell while Germans roam around outside.

Pitt and Cotillard are both good actors and big movie stars, so it’s a bit of a surprise that their early scenes are somewhat lacking in chemistry. It would appear that this is not so much due to the actors themselves, whose performances are otherwise commendable, but the way their characters are written. The juxtaposition of the film’s two halves – the first being a glossy attempt at capturing an outdated moviemaking style, while the second is darker and more dour – is jarring. Overall, Allied is a decent enough spy thriller and romance. It’s not one of Zemeckis’ better films, but for a big budget period piece with big name actors, it’ll do.

Watch the Allied trailer below: