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:: Les Femmes de L'Ombre (Female Agents)

Loosely based on true events, Jean-Paul Salome’s Female Agents is a thrilling WWII movie with a unique slant, as this time the fighting women of the influential and bloody war are thrust into the spotlight, hence its title. Said women are five various souls recruited by Winston Churchill’s SOE (Special Operative Executive): Louise (Sophie Marceau), a trained sniper who has grown cynical through bitter experience as a resistance fighter; Jeanne (Julie Depardieu), an ex-prostitute who is coerced into joining the group or face the hangman’s noose for killing her pimp; Gaelle (Deborah Francois), a bomb maker and devout Catholic naïve to the horrors of war; Suze (Marie Gillain), a former showgirl who is blackmailed into joining the mission; and Maria (Mary Sansa), and Italian Jew working with the French resistance.

Together they must rescue a British geologist who was caught by the Nazi’s on the beaches of Normandy before the tenacious SS counter intelligence Officer Colonel Heinrich (Moritz Bleibtreu) gets to him first and learns of the approaching D-Day invasion by allied forces. During its inception Female Agents fails to dazzle as it ponders through a dreary recruitment sequence. However, after its characters and plot are set, the film finally hits its pace and in turn becomes an exciting watch spurned on by key character development, well paced suspense and superbly staged action sequences. This is not so much a standard war film, but rather a tight espionage thriller which speaks volumes about the brutal nature of war and the violence, treachery and torture that is apart of it.

The film’s various female personalities are a well developed and acted bunch, and the heroic actions - along with their motives – which they action exhibit are grounded in reality and not sugar coated as if it were a French Charlie Angel’s film. Sophie Marceau provides the formidable presence needed for her role as the group’s leader, and the grace filled Deborah Francois is brilliant in her sympathetic portrayal as the innocent recruit who must ditch her devout religious beliefs in order to “survive” capture. She - along with her fellow fighters – must contend with the consequences of their profession (namely torture, murder and/or suicide). This can make some parts of Female Agents an uncomfortable experience, especially so if the sight of the female form succumbed to humiliation and savagery makes you squeamish.

However, the decision by Salome to show – and imply to – such atrocities enhances not only the film's realistic setting, but also the sacrifices made by the brave women of not only WWII but of all wars.