This French spy series is entitled in the original LE BUREAU DES LÉGENDES (THE BUREAU OF LEGENDS), a 'legend' being a carefully invented fictitious background and identity for a secret agent. In Britain and America the series is known by an English title as THE BUREAU. This is a review of all three seasons. I cannot think of any spy film or spy series which has approached this one in quality. It is simply the best. As everyone seems to know by now, American spy films and spy series are often funded by secret slush funds of the CIA, as PR efforts to make their spies look glamorous and patriotic, rather than sleazy and dubious. Who could fail to admire and love all CIA agents after being dazzled by the cute charm of the delightful Piper Perabo in the series COVERT AFFAIRS (2010-2014)? If they are all like that, as we are meant to believe, well then how do we get her phone number? She is irresistible. And when do we join up so that we can have the chance of being 'operatives' beside her? Although this French series appears to have had assistance from the French CIA known as DGSE (pronounced 'daygaysuh'), if only in being told how IMSI devices work, and other such intriguing technicalities, this series is certainly no propaganda fantasy to make people want to join. It has more than just a down side, it has a deeply tragic side. This series attempts to get to the bottom of just how great a cost betrayal, manipulation, and deceit have for its daily practitioners. They may be saving the world from ISIS, but they are not saving themselves or their loved ones. Nor are their own characters going uncorrupted. The acting is spectacularly good. This series is as good about spies as SPIRAL (aka ENGRENAGES, 2005-2016, see my review under 'E' for its French title) was about the Paris police. (And by the way, a surprise sixth season is belatedly appearing later this year for SPIRAL.) I have rarely seen any TV series with such impeccably perfect casting as this one. And all the roles are played with genuine depth. There are no cardboard characters in this series, they are all so well-rounded that we feel embarrassed sometimes at the intimacy with which we come to know them. The boldest, and one might say most outrageous, bit of casting for this series is Sara Giraudeau as the character Marian Loiseau. It could have failed disastrously, but in fact it works brilliantly. She is an apparently shy, lisping, wimpish, and babyish girl with a little girl's tentative voice who seems not only harmless but hopeless. But in fact she is a ruthless 'warrior' for DGSE (to use Henri Duflot's word for her). As courageous as she is, however, she does eventually suffer from terrible panic attacks while on missions. She is one of the most unexpected and spellbinding creatures in this amazing zoo of spies. Another bit of unexpectedly successful casting is the plump black agent of very few words, Irina Muluile, who plays the character known as 'the Mule' (strange coincidence with her real surname). She conveys more by saying nothing than many actors do by talking too much. The lead actor of the series is Mathieu Kassovitz, as the agent 'Malotru' (aka Paul Lefebvre and Guillaume Debailly). He delivers a magnificent performance, of enormous range. He has to play a character who is in so many wildly varying situations, including being an ISIS hostage, that he has to be ten people, not only one. This kind of challenging lead role is any actor's dream, and Kassovitz fulfils that dream admirably. The other lead actor is Jean-Pierre Darrousin, who plays Henri Duflot, the head of the operations section. He is an older man, nearing retirement, who is calm, quiet, concerned, conscientious, and thoroughly competent. He is like a father to his team. One of the lead actresses is Florence Loiret Caille ('quail'), who is subtle and superb as the deputy head. She says bitterly near the end: 'I never cry. My parents called me "the stone".' Whether she ends up finally crying or not I leave to the viewer's suspense. Zineb Triki (of whom there is almost no information on IMDb) is another female lead, playing the character Nadia El Mansour. She is astonishingly dignified and with a commanding presence, huge soft eyes, and limitless sadness in her gaze. She plays a Syrian, but the actress herself is of Moroccan origin, having left that country in 1995 at the age of 15, studied in France and Canada, obtained a degree in political science, became a journalist, and is now an actress. One could go on and on listing all these people who did so well, but that would involve naming the entire extensive cast of 30 episodes. All of this is the product of the 'creator', Eric Rochant. He originated the series and wrote the scripts, and he then produced and directed them all. (Clearly, he never sleeps but works 48 hours day.) It is all nothing short of a work of genius. Previously he wrote and directed the film MÖBIUS (2013). It is clear, then, that Eric Rochant is not merely a paragon but a marvel. It would be impossible to give even a cursory description of the many intense and parallel adventures of the characters in this series, as the plots are so complex and interweaving, and the stories so dramatic and powerful that they sweep one away. It is all profound, with both expressed and suppressed emotions, and thoughtful reflection amidst all the non-stop and heart-stopping action. The suspense and intensity never let up for one second for the entire series, and by the time it is over, one has worn out all the edges of all the seats, and one is a frazzled emotional wreck. Hold on tight, everyone.
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