In France, terrorist groups and intelligence agencies battle in a merciless war everyday, in the name of radically opposed ideologies. Yet, terrorist and secret agents lead almost the same ...
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In France, terrorist groups and intelligence agencies battle in a merciless war everyday, in the name of radically opposed ideologies. Yet, terrorist and secret agents lead almost the same lives. Condemned to secrecy, these masters of manipulation follow the same methods. Alex and Al Barad are two of them. The former is the head of the D.G.S.E.'s (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure, the French equivalent of the CIA or the MI6) counter-terrorism unit while the latter reigns over a terrorist network, and both fight using the most ruthless of weapons: human beings. Secret Défense (aka Secrets Of State) tells of their secret war through the destinies of Diane, a student recruited by the French secret service, and Pierre, a troubled young man who thinks terrorism will bring him salvation. Trained and indoctrinated for missions which are beyond them, they are both drawn into a chain of events from which they seem incapable of escaping. While they both be sacrificed in the name of ... Written by
A French agent and French terrorist, both inexperienced, head for a collision
"Secret Defense" (2008) is a mildly entertaining spy story. Vahina Giocante plays a woman recruited into the French secret service by a ruse engineered by Gerard Lanvin, in an underwritten part. Giocante, who looks morose for most of the film, infiltrates a terrorist network by being the honey to trap its top man, Simon Abkarian. He's too smart to be taken in by her, however, and begins to use her for his own ends without her knowing it. Maybe Lanvin does too, but that scheme, if there is one, is murky. Meanwhile, in a parallel story, Nicolas Duvauchelle is a French drug dealer who goes to prison where he is converted by a jihadist group. Upon being released, he goes to a training camp to learn how to be a martyr. His task will be to set off poison gas in a crowded Paris subway.
All this is told with earnest seriousness and is supposed to be realistic, yet it does not come across that way, actually looking like what it is, a concocted spy tale based on the not especially fresh or innovative imaginings of its writers. The director and/or writers didn't succeed in lifting this story above the mundane or run of the mill level. Its action and plot outlines are quite predictable. In places, it's actually quite ludicrous and badly written. Ms. Giocante is capable of good work as in "Ultimate Heist"; I think she needed stronger direction here. Duvauchelle does a very good job, showing his character's changes. Lanvin's part is too limited to allow him much range. Abkarian is a charismatic actor (as in "I Saw Ben Barka Get Killed"). He handles his part easily.
We are given the well-known thematic idea that spying is a dirty business, with those who run the spies ever ready to use their field agents mercilessly. We are given the idea that young people are susceptible to being brainwashed or used by both terrorists and intelligence outfits. At the end, we are told that the French secret service has foiled 15 terrorist plots.
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