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Last week, former Apprentice candidate Michael Sophocles revealed in an interview with the JC that he wanted to review films for us. Always willing to give someone a second chance, we invited him to cast his eye over a French-language wartime drama. Here’s what he thought.
Jean-Paul SalomÉ is renowned in his native France as being something of an auteur. This is quite an accolade for any director, and, with his latest movie Female Agents (a rather silly title, it has to be said), the hype surrounding him is almost justified. What we end up getting is a mixed bag of tricks that leaves us mainly captivated, but occasionally unconvinced.
Female Agents - a relentlessly gritty tale with a contrived ending, says Sophocles
The premise is certainly interesting enough. Four women — played by Julie Depardieu, Marie Gillian, Deborah François and Maya Sansa — each with very different backgrounds, are recruited for two secret missions in Occupied France by the no-nonsense resistance fighter, Louise (Sophie Marceau). The mission starts off well for the girls, only for things to go horrifically awry when they are asked to kill off the unconventional Nazi, Colonel Heindrich.
This Second World War tale is relentlessly gritty, and if you have come to the cinema for a popcorn wartime romance, I am afraid you are going to go home reasonably disappointed.
Agents is an old-fashioned action movie that will pull on your heart strings and give you a much-needed insight into the plight of women whose actions were often overlooked in favour of their male counterparts. In short, it is rather morose.
The central performances are quite brilliant, though, and give the movie a much-needed lift. In particular, Moritz Bleibtreu’s bow as the humanised Nazi colonel gives Agents a boost whenever he is on screen. In his various interactions with the female leads, he often shows glimmers of clemency that lead the audience to feel he may stray from his vicious duties, only for our hopes to be dashed so cruelly.
And hats off to Salomé. There are some beautiful shots that immerse the audience into his sombre war picture, and also congrats to the director for not resorting to clichés when portraying his complex characters.
However, why is it that no matter how adept a director is, they never quite know when to end their stint? Female Agents suffers greatly from an overcooked ending that seems to drag on interminably. And the longer it goes on, the less real the whole film feels. And that’s the biggest sin, because it taints the experience.
If you can labour through a French-subtitled war movie, then I fervently believe you can do anything! But joking aside, Female Agents is an admirable effort that could have got an extra star if not for the contrived ending.
Now you're in the boardroom
So how did Michael do? Here’s your chance to play the role of Sir Alan and tell us whether we should hire him for more JC reviews... or fire him. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Film Reviews, Jewish Chronicle, 25 Furnival Street, London, EC4A 1JT