Les femmes de l’ombre aka Female Agents (2008) Women in the Resistance

Not every slick-looking movie with good-looking actresses on the French Resistance is a good movie. Unfortunately not or Les femmes de l’ombre would have been great. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad it’s just not great. If you want an entertaining period drama, this is your movie (ok, there are a some torture scenes that dampen the experience a bit but nice clothes and make-up make up for it). It’s a little bit like Black Book aka Zwartboek but less convincing. The theme would have been interesting and worth dedicating a movie to.

Based on true events, it follows the story of Louise Desfontaine (Sophie Marceau), a sniper with the French Resistance. When things heat up in France she leaves for England and joins the SOE. One day she is contacted by an agent who happens to be her brother Pierre (Julien Boisselier) whom she suspected of being a collaborator. He hires her and four other women to rescue a British spy who has been captured in France by the Germans. The Germans aren’t aware of his identity and think he is German. The women will have to team up, two disguised as nurses, two as exotic dancers (yes, you will see them topless, it’s a French movie) and the fifth will place bombs under German cars.

The five women are a composite group, one is an ex-prostitute (Julie Depardieu), one the ex-girlfriend (Marie Gillain) of the Nazi officer (Moritz Bleibtreu) who tries to hunt them down.

What at first looks like a success soon goes awry. Louise’s brother get’s caught and we all know what that means.

The women go back to Paris on another mission and here things goe definitely very wrong as one gets captured and immediately crumbles under torture (one finger nail off and she spits it all out).

I can really not say why exactly I wasn’t too convinced. Because I have seen the brilliant L’armée du crime aka The Army of Crime before? Or some of the movies on Nordic Resistance that are truly good? I think it is in part due to a slightly off-key cast. Every woman wears heavy make-up which is nice, only Sophie Marceau has to look somewhat stony faced and unattractive (she isn’t successful, she’s too beautiful to look unattractive). I think the producers and directors were aware they would be criticized for their choice of too pretty women and tried to balance this out by not showing a heavily made up Sophie Marceau. She is the sniper after all… Why, if they didn’t want her to look her very best, did they not cast another actress? Because she is a great actress? I always suspected her to be far from accomplished, and she really isn’t too good. I would have preferred her to look as beautiful as she can and not try so hard to look efficient. (I’m thinking of Demi Moore as G.I. Jane who was much more convincing.) I think you can actually be cold-blooded without looking it. And I am not a big fan of Moritz Bleibtreu either. At least not in supposedly serious roles (I have seen him in German movies in which I found him very good). Julien Boisselier and the other four actresses are very good, especially Julie Depardieu and Marie Gillain.

Les femmes de l’ombre aka Female Agents is entertaining, just don’t expect to much of it. If you want the real deal, watch L’armée du crime.

9 thoughts on “Les femmes de l’ombre aka Female Agents (2008) Women in the Resistance

  1. warmoviebuff says:

    You had me at “exotic dancers”. Sign me up.

  2. warmoviebuff says:

    You know my feelings about “Army of Crime”. I was more interested in your comparison to “Black Book”.

  3. nem baj says:

    Unbelievable script, corny dialogue, bad acting, non-existent cinematography. And again, while the settings, costumes and props have been carefully researched, the actresses are so anachronistic in their facial expressions and speech rhythm it hurts.

    My guess is a bad-ass remake à là Expendables would make wonders, at least it would be fun (and you could keep the same female cast). In the meantime, all women involved in the French Resistance deserved better.

    • Lookin g at my review again, I’d say I liked the story better than the movie they made of it. It has a lot of corny moments and the acting isn’t that good either.
      Yes, they would have deserved better. It’s too stylish for it’s own good. When stylish, I mean, looks like a commercial, not great cinematography, btw.

      • nem baj says:

        In my opinion the story is completely unbelievable from the moment the ‘geologist’ is arrested by the Germans. Since they don’t know wether he has talked or not, engaging in a violent operation (which meant harsh reprisals on civilians) is just stupid – and by the way the initial plan was a stealth extraction, so why do they plant bombs from the start? This goes on and on till the end (there’s strictly no need to transfer the brother to Berlin, either his confession is enough or it’s not; no urgent matter would have waited for a 24h+ train trip to Berlin, but naturally a train station is an easier setting than a military airport for the scene that follows…).

        On a side note, the production hired a respected historian as a consultant. He had in the past been (justly) picky about other films, like Lucie Aubrac. Too bad he didn’t apply his wits in this case.

      • Caroline says:

        That comment on the historian surprises me. I thought Lucie Aubrac was a very good movie.

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