If you’ve been reading Cinebeats for awhile you’re probably well aware of my fascination and fondness for spies. From the smart and exceptional Prisoner to the ridiculously silly Last of the Secret Agents?, I never seem to get tired of watching spy movies or television shows as long as they have a good soundtrack accompanying them. So it should come as no surprise that I think the recent French spy spoof OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies aka OSS 117: Le Caire, Nid d’Espions (2006) is one of the funniest films of the last decade.
The movie was directed and co-written by Michel Hazanavicius who based it on the original OSS 117 spy novels by the prolific French author Jean Bruce. The original books featured an American born spy with French roots named Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath who worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). OSS 117 predated Ian Fleming’s more well-known spy James Bond, alias 007, by 4 years, but both characters seem to share a lot of similarities. I haven’t read any of the original Jean Bruce novels myself or seen the early French films based on the books but according to director Michel Hazanavicius OSS 117 isn’t as ironic or clever as James Bond.
Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, alias OSS 117, is played brilliantly by the handsome and very funny French actor Jean Dujardin. Dujardin has clearly based his character on Sean Connery’s Bond from the early ’60s as well as other self-assured male spies from the same period and he does a terrific job of mimicking their best and worst qualities. In the film agent OSS 117 is sent to Cairo to investigate the disappearance of his close friend and fellow OSS operative Jack Jefferson (Philippe Lefebvre). Finding his friend won’t be easy and over the course of the film OSS 117 becomes entangled in a web of international espionage involving Nazis, a fundamentalist uprising and two beautiful but dangerous women played by the lovely Bérénice Bejo and Aure Atika.
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies takes place in 1955 and the film beautifully replicates the decade it’s boldly taking a jab at. Director Michel Hazanavicius clearly loves the movies he’s emulating and OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies comes across as a thoughtful homage as well as a clever parody. From the detailed set designs, to the stylized fashions and incredible soundtrack, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is a film that knows exactly what it’s doing while delivering a lot of laughs. The humor in OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is slightly more sophisticated than the Austin Power films but the movie should appeal to Pink Panther fans and anyone who enjoys television shows like Get Smart.
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is available on DVD and it can currently be purchased at Amazon for $16.49. You can also find it for rent online at Netflix and Greencine.
The original US trailer for the film
Modern Mondays is an ongoing project here at Cinebeats where I share a few thoughts or lengthy rants and raves about my favorite films produced during the last decade. Films previously mentioned on Modern Mondays include:
– The Left Bank (2008)
– Love Songs (2007)
– Bright Future (2003)
– Control (2007)
– The Quiet American (2001)
– A History of Violence (2005)
– This Is England (2007)
– Shaun of the Dead (2004)
– Innocence (2004)
– Mulholland Dr. (2001)
– Cloverfield (2008)
– Last Life in the Universe (2003)
– Before the Fall (2008)
– Calvaire (2004)
– 28 Days Later (2002)