OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
Dir. Michel Hazanavicius, 2006
Before winning an Oscar for The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius decided to take a hard-boiled series of French spy novels and adapt them as comedies. Jean Dujardin plays the titular agent; a bumbling, racist spy sent to Suez Crisis-era Egypt to uncover the location of weapons taken from a Russian ship that went missing the same time his old partner was killed. In doing so, his ignorance of Islam makes him the target of an ersatz Muslim Brotherhood, a deposed princess, and even his lovely assistant (Berenice Bejo). He also becomes obsessed with his cover as a chicken farmer.
With it’s cinemascope, slightly faded but rich colour, rampant abuse of day-for-night shooting, and hilarious setpieces in between the main action (especially involving chickens, ouds, or escaped Nazis), Hazanavicius manages to spoof mid-century spy fiction intelligently and humourously without taking it to the farcical extreme that other films might. B+