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)

10 thoughts on “Modern Mondays: OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)

  1. I just saw this for the first time a couple of days ago…I’m hoping to use a few screenshots for my next post about title sequences (loved the titles for this).

    I didn’t like it quite as much as you did, but still enjoyed it a great deal. Dujardin is terrific (especially when he plays the oud!), the design is gorgeous and there are some original spoof moments.

    I do wish they had kept the tone of the comedy a bit more narrow (it verged from subtle to almost Airplane! at times).

    Still, I’m looking forward to the sequel – “OSS 117: “Rio Ne Repond Plus” (Lost In Rio).

  2. I’m a sucker for spy spoofs no matter how ridiculous they are. I make no apologies for it but I realize these types of movies are definitely not for everyone but I’m glad you enjoyed parts of it, Bob. The title sequence is fantastic and Dujardin is really terrific. He may have created the best Bond character parody yet.

    I’m looking forward to the sequel too!

  3. I somewhat preferred “Black Dynamite,” mainly because I found the pacing a bit off, but the two are very much in the same spirit. Like BD, it’s not perfect but this is really a delightful little send-up anchored by a great leading man performance that this spy-flick lover really enjoyed.

    BTW — A sequel has already been finished and has played at least one U.S. festival.

  4. The movie is good and funny, the look of the film is terrific… but the sequel is far more superior! RIO NE REPOND PLUS is funnier and more crazy. With nazies villains, wrestlers Santo-like bodyguards, hippies and much much more. And they even made a more sophisticated look for the film. The sets and costumes are simply gorgeous to look at. And the musical score is great. And Dujardin is hilarious! Try to catch the french DVD (Zone 2), it includes english subtitles! You won’t regret it! 🙂

  5. Thanks for the recommendation — it’s not only on Netflix, they’ve got it on Instant Watch so I can get a French fix.

    I’m very anxious to see Dujardin in something — I’m ashamed to say I haven’t seen one of his films, but was intrigued by him thanks to that “Lucky Luke” trailer. Can’t wait.

  6. Bob & Joel – I’m looking forward to the sequel as Imentioned in the previous comments. You make it sound downright amazing Joel!

    Alena – I really want to see Franklyn so I’m sure I’ll watch it sooner or later. At the moment I’ve got about 10 or 20 movies I still need to write about for Modern Mondays and there’s no way I’ll complete my list before the year is over. I’m probably going to wrap Modern Mondays up soon and just share my complete list at the end of the year.

    Harris – Thanks for the rec! There’s hundreds (hell, maybe thousands?) of spy flicks from the ’60s I want to see so recs are always appreciated.

    Elisabth – I hope you enjoy it! It’s a silly movie and I think it has some great sight gags in it. If you’re looking to laugh, OSS 117 could be good medicine. 🙂

  7. Great review and very attractive screen shots. I love this movie! I really liked the sequel, too, but I don’t agree that it’s superior. I think it’s ALMOST as good as Cairo, but ultimately suffers from something that’s not even it’s own fault: it simply can’t be as original as the first movie. It does some of the same things, and some of the jokes aren’t as fresh. But other than that, it’s really great, and it captures late Sixties filmmaking just as well as the first one duplicates the mid-Fifties look. And the wrestlers were a great addition. Definitely seek it out; just don’t have your expectations set above the brilliance of the first instalment!

  8. Tanner – Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the film! I’ll probably wait for the follow up movie to make its way onto US DVD before I see it, but I’m looking forward to it. Jean Dujardin was so funny (and cute!) that I’m sure he’ll keep me entertained.

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