Thursday, March 12, 2009

Les femmes de l'ombre

Known in English as Female Agents, this film might make some people say: "Oh no! Not another film about World War II!" Guess what? It's really enjoyable for its simplicity although its historical aspects might look a little bit hard to understand at the first sight. Moreover, this thriller has everything one is looking for: action, good performance and a smart writing in the storyline. All in all, if you like entertainment, you won't be dismayed by this film.

During World War II, Louise Desfontaines (Sophie Marceau), a French resistant (who is a trained sniper), flees to Great-Britain after her husband got killed before her eyes by a German soldier. Despite her brother's, Pierre (Julien Boisselier), reservation, she joins the British Special Operation Executive (SOE), a unit specialized in sabotage and intelligence, and is asked to recruit three other women for a mission that consists in bringing back a British army geologist who got captured by the Germans while doing some reconnaissance on the Normandy beach. That geologist hasn't talked yet, but time is running short for Louise to recruit three women for the mission. To that matter, lies, blackmail and promises are not excluded.

Jeanne (Julie Dépardieu) is an ex-prostitute who can coldly kill people and joins the SOE in order to be exonerated from the murder of her pimp. Suzy (Marie Gillain), a former cabaret dancer, who has a knack in seducing men, joins in order to erase her past days as a lover of a German officer. Gaëlle (Deborah François) is a young chemist who has been making explosives for the SOE (out of patriotism for France) and wants finally to see some action. The four women are completed by Maria (Maya Sansa), a Jewish Italian working for the French resistance. However, after their successful mission, something comes up. Indeed, the SOE orders the five women to go to Paris to carry out a suicide mission: kill colonel Heindrich, the German man who interrogated the geologist, because he knows too much about what the Allies want to do in Normandy.

Shot with simplicity, Les femmes de l'ombre might be a work of fiction, but is nonetheless really good on a historical perspective. In fact, it talks about an unknown chapter in the history of the French resistance during Second World War, which is the courageous involvement of women. With its fairly good action scenes, harsh torture/interrogation scenes and dark ambiance throughout the film, Les femmes de l'ombre has no difficulty to depict the danger, fear, betrayal and courage that these women are feeling. As we advance in the story, the film shows well that the courage of some women in the squad contrasts with the fear of others who either had - prior to carrying out the mission - a naive conception of what is war (ex: Gaëlle) or is frightened by the mere sight of blood (ex: Suzy). Regardless of each of the five women's strength or weakness, they all become a heroine in their own way.

Unfortunately, at the beginning, the performance doesn't look really natural. In fact, Julien Boisselier looks a little bit bland and unconvincing as a man who is supposed to be tough at the beginning, but he's fine as the movie's end approaches. My nods actually goes to Sophie Marceau (The World Is not Enough) for leading the four other actresses who all do a hell of a job in supporting her. In this film, you'll find Marceau correct with her deliberately cold performance of a heroine who has seen enough action on the field to be courageous.

Rating: 3.5/5

Les femmes de l'ombre
Origin:France (2008)
Length:117 minutes
Genre:Historical thriller
Screenplay:Jean-Pierre Salomé and Laurent Varchaud
Director:Jean-Pierre Salomé
Starring:Sophie Marceau, Julie Dépardieu, Marie Gillain, Deborah François, Maya Sansa, Julien Boisselier, Vincent Rottiers and Moritz Bleitbreu

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