Monday, 3 November 2008

OSS116 - Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)

This French spoof resurrects a popular character from the novels of Jean Bruce who first appeared in films in 1956, played by Ivan Desny, and then in a series of popular films of the 60s, where the lead was taken by a succession of minor American actors. Now embodied in the form of Jean Dujardin, at first glance he appears to be the French James Bond, but as one astute commentator on IMDb remarks, he is actually a cross between Inspector Clouseau and 007. (The fact that he is only number 116 underlines his ineptness).

Sent to Cairo to unravel the mysterious death of another agent, whose front was a chicken factory -- cue some great chicken-abuse gags, he is a fish out of water in this exotic environment, totally out of touch with the local religion and mores. Even with his dishy Arab sidekick, Berenice Bejo, he is unable to understand that his behaviour offends. His duffing up a Muezzin, whose calling the faithful to prayer from a nearby minaret interrupted our hero's sleep, nearly ignites a revolution. Yet he is not completely hopeless -- he is great at escaping from bonds, is able to land an effective punch or two, and manages to solve the local mystery despite himself. But he is really just about as thick as two short planks! All in all, the film is great fun with its retro look and underlying humour. A sequel is apparently in the works, so that's something to anticipate.
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