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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Samuel Le Bihan,
Piggy Banks tells the story of two charming and brilliant brothers who finance their lifestyle by robbing and murdering pretty much anyone foolish enough to get in the car with them. They ... See full summary »
Morgan J. Freeman
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
It makes a difference to see it from the French point of view. After all, ten percent of the population of France are now refugees or descendants of refugees from Muslim North Africa. This film is about the French Secret Service, which has initials I can never remember, but you know the one. It portrays them as hyper-efficient, hyper-modern, ruthless and dedicated professionals who will, as Gérard Lanvin the lead actor puts it in the film, be 'patriots' who will 'do anything for my country'. And 'anything' really means, unfortunately, 'anything'. The film portrays in grim, horrifying, and fascinating detail the fantastic entrapments devised to recruit young agents in the fight against Muslim terrorism. The French call the Qaeda fanatics by their alternative name of 'Salafis' rather than 'Wahabbis'. The terrorists are portrayed in 'Damascus' and 'Afghanistan' (both actually filmed in Morocco) with extreme and convincing realism. The film is disturbing in many places, with one homosexual rape scene and several murders. I believe the horrifying footage of the dog in the glass cage who is killed by cyanide gas is a real Qaeda video. The set-ups carried out by the French secret service are so devious that they would make Machiavelli blush. The film does not have the Hollywood approach to violence, which always focuses on childish and adolescent fantasies of things crashing and exploding. Instead, the French, who are a far more sophisticated people, concentrate on what happens to people rather than the havoc wreaked to mere objects. In this, they are more straightforward. If a severed head has to be delivered in a cake box, it is delivered in a mundane ordinary manner, and it does not have to be delivered by a helicopter smashing into a skyscraper. Anyway, there are few skyscrapers in Paris, thank God. (Skyscrapers have no business existing anywhere other than New York and Shanghai.) The attitude towards the agent ('humint' to the Americans) is brazenly unfeeling. As Lanvin says: 'An agent is not a person, he is a tool.' Controllers are not allowed to treat their agents as human beings. The film features an astonishingly versatile performance by the young actress Vahina Giocante, who is tricked into becoming an agent, and who screams at Lanvin when she realizes what he has done to her that he is 'all alone'. He answers with resignation: 'Yes, I know.' The whole story is very bleak, that is, when it stops its restless pace of action long enough to allow anyone a moment to reflect. The film is really a most impressive achievement, exciting, well made, relentlessly entertaining, if you have the stomach for the grisly bits. The director, Philippe Haïm, who also wrote the story, appears from his name to be of North African descent, so perhaps he has a special feel for all of this. He has done a superb job of making a French 'blockbuster'
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