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
Secret défense is an interesting movie in that it combines the style of French thrillers with Hollywood mainstream elements. Even during the opening credits, the movie smacks of Tony Scott, right down to the music, which reminds of "Enemy of the State".
I have not seen previous movies from director Philippe Haïm but I sensed he could never firmly put his print on this espionage thriller despite having the best of intentions. The story is cliché but interesting enough despite quite weak dialogs, the pace is appropriate so we get to know all the characters and the tension builds slowly as the "pieces" move in this chess game of terror.
Unfortunately, there's just something missing to make us care about any of these people. Perhaps this movie could have felt more fresh had it come out in 2002 or 2003 but by now it all feels rehashed.
What saves the movie from being sub par is the avoidance of over-the-top action sequences. The movie instead focuses on the cold, calculating work done by both national security agents and terrorists alike. Both sides thrive not due to super-heroic powers (think James Bond here) but rather by a total disregard for human life. The movers and shakers on both sides manipulate their gullible and vulnerable assets into doing their dirty work. Bonus points for the gritty tone which at times might not have been possible in a Hollywood movie.
Food for thoughts: Secret Defense cost 11 million Euros. Considering a movie like "Spy Game" cost 92 million US dollars, it makes you consider Europeans still know how to get a bigger bang for the buck.
Not the most spectacular entry in the genre but worthwhile. This is not classic French cinema. This is not a Hollywood blockbuster. But if you can appreciate an unambitious and entertaining movie somewhere between the two, this might be for you.
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