On the eve of D-Day, the Germans have captured a British agent who holds vital information about the Allied landings. Before he cracks under interrogation, five female agents must get him out and kill the Nazi counter-intelligence officer who’s holding him. But can Marceau’s misfits – a showgirl, an explosives expert, a murderous prostitute and a Jewish Italian radio operator – keep their sang froid and get away clean?
Beautifully produced, Female Agents is a lot better than the crappy title suggests. Femmes des Ombres is more subtle – but less translatable. Energetic action sequences, thrilling chases and nail-biting moments sit alongside moments of characterful longeur. Less down and dirty than Verhoeven’s Black Book but less clichéd than expected, it’s a violent action film with a feminist agenda.
Based on true events and real heroines, Jean-Paul Salome’s film aims to do justice to its neglected subject – the many women who fought in the Resistance. Blessed with a believable baddie (Moritz Bleibtreu) and gutsy performances from the female leads, Female Agents is well worth a watch.
Salome’s fluid style falters in a moment of obligatory Saving Private Ryan homage, as an exciting escape scene is shot in edgy high-speed, aping Spielberg’s blistering D-Day gunfire. But otherwise, this is a film of sensuous solidity, a heady mix of sweat and perfume.
Deserving a wider audience than its French language and fatuous title might draw - Female Agents is a touch formulaic. Less quirky and more predictable than Black Book, it’s still an excitingly old-fashioned adventure – a cinematic bouquet of blood and roses.