REVIEW: DVD Release: OSS 117 - Cairo: Nest Of Spies

Film: OSS 117 - Cairo: Nest Of Spies
Release date: 23rd February 2009
Certificate: 12
Running time: 99 mins
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, Aure Atika, Philippe Lefebvre, Constantin Alexandrov
Genre: Adventure/Comedy/Crime
Studio: ICA
Format: DVD
Country: France

Based on a series of 1950s and 1960s spy films, which were in turn based on a series of novels by French author Jean Bruce, the movie both parodies the original OSS 117 franchise along with other spy movies from the time, especially the Connery-era James Bond films.

The story is a simple fish-out-of-water comedy, whereby the suave, (not so) sophisticated Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath is sent by his superiors to Egypt during the 1950s to find out what happened to another agent – and Hubert’s old friend – Jack, who is believed to have been killed.

Upon entering the country, agent OSS 117 encounters beautiful women, religious fanatics, people of all races and nationalities, and even has run-ins with Nazis inside the pyramids…

The plot is very basic, loosely holding together a series of comic situations. The film literally throws every cliché of the spy genre at the screen which, while unorganised, ultimately prevents the film from becoming too predictable as you never know what insane plot twist will occur next.

Much of the film’s humour derives from Hubert’s old-fashioned, 1950s sensibilities, and although his xenophobia and sexism will not be to everyone’s liking, the humour is generally handled well, ensuring that it is Hubert who is being ridiculed and humiliated and not his supposed targets.

As well as the ‘humour of awkwardness’, there are also plenty of visual jokes and slapstick comedy that make the film extremely accessible for people with varied senses of humour. Furthermore, the supremely likable Jean Dujardin delivers a performance that ensures the audience continue to enjoy Hubert’s company despite his flaws, and Berenice Bejo is an excellent counterfoil as the seductive, strong, and intelligent love-interest, reversing more traditional roles for a nice contemporary twist.

Our introduction to the eponymous OSS 117 – eyebrow and gun cocked, white teeth sparkling – occurs during a black-and-white, pre-credit sequence set towards the end of WWII, where he and his comrade must steal a briefcase from a fleeing Nazi. From there, we are launched into the glorious and gaudy Technicolor of a 1960s movie, with the filmmakers lovingly recreating the look and feel of works such as the early Bond movies, down to minute details; usually evoking these as jokes as well as a faithful homage. As such, the direction and cinematography comes across as deceptively simple, but it all adds to the enjoyable nature of the film.

Unlike its overblown, overly politically-incorrect and disappointing sequel, OSS 177 - Lost In Rio, Cairo: Nest Of Spies is a far more concise and compact movie, overflowing with jokes and fun.

Nothing in the movie should be taken seriously, except maybe the beauty of the filmmaker’s attention to period/cinematic detail and the joyous soundtrack (there’s even a musical number!) - in short, the movie is a breezy, colourful comedy that should delight all those who are not easily offended.

A must for fans of the Naked Gun and Austin Powers films, or anyone who enjoys the early James Bond movies, OSS 117 - Cairo: Nest Of Spies is a wonderful guilty pleasure. CD

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