Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006) **½

NR, 98 min.
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Writers: Jean-François Harlin, Michel Hazanavicius, Jean Bruce (novel)
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, François Damiens, Khalid Maadour, Aure Atika, Youssef Hamid, Arsène Mosca, Constantin Alexandrov, Claude Brosset, Laurent Bateau, Saïd Amadis, Eric Prat, Abdallah Moundy, Philippe Lefebvre, Richard Sammel

Michel Hazanavicius. Jean Dujardin. Bérénice Bejo. Where have I seen those names before? They are the director and stars of this year’s Academy Award winning Best Picture “The Artist”. Apparently they’ve done this filmmaking thing before. “OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies” is no silent film, however it does homage a cinematic style from a bygone era.

The character of Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, alias OSS 117, is said to have been a major influence on Ian Fleming in the creation of the James Bond character. He appeared in many more novels than Bond did. Although, he was a serious spy in the French novels, this 2006 movie treatment (and its 2009 sequel) treat the character in more of a spy spoof light. It doesn’t go quite as far as Austin Powers, but it makes fun of the spy clichés and traditions that were popular cinema in the 1960s.

Dujardin proves the high quality of his mugging here as he did in this year’s Oscar-winner. He plays the spy as doofus who succeeds as much by accident as by skill. He’s the secret agent version of Inspector Clouseau. The movie has great fun with its Middle Eastern location, bringing new lows to a misunderstanding of the Muslim faith. Plus, there’s a shoot out done with chickens that makes for classic spoof fare. Unfortunately, the pacing of the film is a little flat, making the audience wait too long between funny moments. 

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