Creator: Eric Rochant
Cast: Mathieu Kassovitz, Sara Giraudeau, Zineb Triki, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Lea Drucker, Florence Loiret Caille, Jonathan Zaccai, Alexandre Brausseur, Giles Cohen, Michael Abiteboul, Mehdi Nebbou
Running Time: 10 episodes, 54 minutes approx
What would you do for love? Guillaume Debailly (Mathieu Kassovitz) will do a lot and does in the hit French television series THE BUREAU (LE BUREAU DES LEGENDES).
This series, expanding to a second season currently running in France now with a third announced, in its first season follows Debailly, codename Malotru, as he returns to France and the DGSE, French Intelligence, after a six-year mission undercover in Syria, his boss Henri Duflot (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) puts him to work with a new recruit Marina (Sara Giraudeau). However, things become complicated when an agent in the field, Cyclone, goes missing and a woman, Nadia El Mansour (Zineb Triki), whom Debailly had a relationship with in Syria appears in France and the two rekindle their relationship.
Kassovitz is magnetic in the central role. He has the jaw line and presence to command the screen in such a way the genre requires so you’re on-edge at all times, especially when things heat up and the stakes become higher. To call him a French Bond would seem fitting, but ultimately it would be insulting because James Bond can only dream of handling delicate emotions, strained relationships, tense situations and a double-life in the calm manner that Debailly does. The believability of all of this rests on the shoulders of Kassovitz and he handles it spectacularly. Yet, there’s a heart under it all and though Debailly is stone-faced almost all the time you see that heart in the choices he makes, leading to a heart-breaking decision.
He’s more than aided by fantastic writing, primarily done by creator Eric Rochant in collaboration with Camile de Castelnau. They pace the 10-episode season so well so you’re kept up-to-speed with crisis room meetings and are fully aware of the dual conversations going on at times. Yet, the closest this season gets to action is a car pursuit that lasts all of 5 minutes but the work done leading up to is so good that this feels monumental in the context. Bond wouldn’t be having any of that, neither would Bourne.
The season is set out greatly with information and traps laid out over its first half that pay-off and come back really well in its second. Each episode, from five to its finale are brilliantly executed that they literally keep you on the edge of your seat. The subplot of Marina’s first mission is weighed well against the main plot of Cyclone’s disappearance and the emergence of Nadia, as are minor characters, all of whom get their moment which is a testament to how well this written.
THE BUREAU has been praised as the best ever television series produced in France and it’s extremely hard to argue with that statement. Who would want to when television is this good?
THE BUREAU is released on DVD on Monday 16th January by Arrow Films.