Sebastien Grenier is a successful French businessman, who has been living in Switserland for several years. He's married to a German professor of literature. But Grenier has a secret: he used to be a field agent for the French secret service SDECE. However, as the years went by, he certainly don't expect a wake up call any longer. He couldn't have been more wrong Similarly as with CIA-agents, once SDECE, always SDECE He's played by a somewhat grumpy, tired looking Lino Ventura.
It all starts with a RAF style execution of a passenger in a tramway by a leftist terrorist group. From then on, Grenier gets caught in a whirlwind of events, leading to several other violent deaths. The "where's" and "when's" of these events are announced in a cool voice by a narrator. (Several other spy movies use a similar semi-documentary approach, others use a "telex"-message for the same purpose). The first victim is Henri Marchand, another SDECE-agent, played by Bernard Fresson. Many Americans will remember him as the French commissaire Barthélémy in French Connection II, with his funny clashes with "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hacklman.
Grenier soon realizes that he might not live very long anymore. But who is the spider in the deadly web around him ? Is it the mysterious and cold "Richard", played by Bruno Cremer ?(of "Maigret"-fame). Or is it Jean-Paul Chance, a slick Swiss high official from the Justice Department, who seems to be extremely well informed by whatever Grenier is doing. (Chance is played by Michel Piccoli, who clearly enjoys irritating the Grenier-character). Who's systematically knocking out several pawns on the international chess game, and why ? In the end, the French former agent will manage to shed some light into some dark corners. What he doesn't realize is that the gun, pointed at his back is hidden in another shadowy corner. Or is he ?
Not a bad movie, but by far not as good as "Le silencieux" (1973, also with Ventura. Maybe the movie doesn't really manages to create a real mysterious atmosphere of clear and present danger, as for example "La septième cible" manages to do in a better way. The way the secret agents communicate with each other also has something laughable, it all looks so terribly boyscoutish. It also made me seasick to see how sparkless the Grenier-Gretz "couple" apparently had become. They were clearly at the brink of a total burn out, before death took its toll In fact, the whole movie has something extremely depressing: the tired looks of Grenier, his moody interactions with his business collaborator, his secretary and his wife, and every one involved in the story. The soundtrack consists of a sober, efficient but also somewhat depressing march, yet another Morricone creation. Even the landscapes of Switserland surely wouldn't be the ones I would use to attract more tourists
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