OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars
This light-hearted pastiche is a recommended antidote to ‘Quantum of Solace’. It’s a French spin on their own secret agent franchise, based on the numerous OSS 117 novels of Jean Bruce, which pre-dated Fleming’s novels and spawned a series of uneven movie adaptations. Thankfully, director and co-writer Michel Hazanavicius’s delightful ’Scope parody is a treat in its own right, carried sturdily along by the performance of talented comedian Jean Dujardin as the preening, smug and un-reconstructed agent who’s sent out to revolutionary Egypt in 1955 on a simple mission to ‘calm down the Americans, Russians and English; buttress French policy; establish peace; and make the Middle East safe.’

Treading a clever line between Connery-era Bond-isms – replete with spot-on design, cinematographic and other genre quotations – and playful proddings at contemporary French (and by extension, English) macho posturing, political condescension, cultural ignorance and sexual chauvinism, it also scores with its embrace of lame sight gags, crass sexual innuendo, silly or juvenile action sequences, and exquisite sequences of meaninglessly aphoristic or coded conversations.

It’s directed, too, with skill and brio, with Ludovic Bource and Kamel Ech-Cheik providing a lovely score that lampoons naff lounge-lizard MOR and ’60s-era Henry Mancini. But Dujardin carries the day: he probably has the élan, physical presence, hauteur and grace to play the role straight – but you can feel his enjoyment of his tuxedoed character’s Clouseauesque cluelessness, smirky smile, buffonish complacence and child-like naivety and enthusiasm goes far deeper. This guy – as his mean mambo shows – has funny bones.

By: Wally Hammond



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