The spy played by Jean Dujardin returns for a new adventure, this time under the leadership of Nicolas Bedos. Are director blankets any good?
From its first steps on the big screen, OSS 117 has established itself as the benchmark in French comedy. The character played by Jean Dujardin has given birth to many unusual and fun punchlines. Under the pen of Michel Hazanavicius, OSS 117 developed as a spy, a little naive, obsolete, and deeply misogynistic. His lines are so popular that it is not uncommon to see some fans quoting them all the time.
In this new adventure, Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath has taken a few wrinkles and must face a new generation of SDECE spies. This young man is embodied by Pierre Niney, who plays OSS 1001. Sent to Black Africa, OSS 117 is entrusted with the most dangerous missions. He must free the young recruits and annihilate the revolution that is taking place.
In these first moments, Nicolas Bedos’ new film doesn’t hide its intentions. The James Bond adventure pastiche, from whom he even borrows credit, the film multiplies the supported references to British spies. After successive shots of several seconds, Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath distributed bread in Afghanistan before taking off effortlessly by helicopter to escape his captors.
The film is nothing short of wink, and its realization indulges without the displeasure of parody. After La Belle Epoque, from a rare poem, Nicolas Bedos builds a visually appealing film in its setting management. The filmmaker’s camera is more of a joke and offers a few scenes that, without being hilarious, manage to sketch some smiles on the audience. With a deeply nostalgic aesthetic, this film is a reflection of action cinema from time to time.
But now, as France prepares to elect François Mitterrand, OSS 117 is aging. The spy became a reflection of his past glory and was relegated to the IT department. Nicolas Bedos and Jean-François Halin (having worked on the previous two films) deconstruct the characters and confront them with horror through time. The ex-assassin had all the trouble in the world to fly colors and regret seeing the mental shift. The bias pays off at times, especially during the confrontation with OSS 1001, but it also tarnishes the comic dimension of the film. Because if Hazanavicius had a cynical view of his character, that would have made it possible to provide relief to the Red Alert films in Black Africa. trying to include it in his plea for preservation is impolite.
If the film wants to insult political correctness, it’s clear the story is repeated a lot in its business. The screenwriter ended up wearing a rope with heavy lines and references to the “undo culture” movement. OSS 117 slams its collaborator’s ass and sends a barely concealed nod to the #metoo movement. The same is true when feature films address the issue of racism. The joke that was once a saga’s glory, mostly missed the mark. Nothing really surprising, even when the script overrides the point.
To the question can we laugh at everything in 2021, Nicolas Bedos tries to answer yes. However, the director didn’t manage to reproduce the minor magic that was the first two works and delivered a lukewarm feature film that was somewhat disappointing. In the realm of the absurd in spy comedy service, we prefer Au Service de la France, Arte’s comedy with Hugo Becker and written by Jean-François Halin (yes screenwriter of Red Alert in Black Africa).
On the dialogue side too, mayonnaise is not taken. Too much restraint, replicas are doomed to fail to register with posterity and sorely lacking in courage. The whole is not helped by the story, disjointed and filled with much length. The writing of this mille-feuille script is indigestible and doesn’t manage to capture us during the 120 minutes of the feature film.
The only light in this dark sky is the casting that offers some saving moments of humor. Jean Dujardin, always perfect in his interpretations, manages to navigate as best he can in this intricate sea of valves. The actor knows his score like the back of his hand. Pierre Niney is also nothing short of and offers a beautiful counterweight to OSS 117. Between the spy admirer and the disillusioned collaborator, he offers some lovely comedic moments.