Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Nest of Spies"

Based on a long-running French spy character who actually predates James Bond, "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies" is a loving spoof of Cold War espionage thrillers, done with a spot-on re-creation of the look, sound and feel of a genuine 1950s Technicolor production. Men wear sharp suits, the women wear slinky dresses and everyone can dance the mambo reasonably well.

The film, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, counts as its No. 1 asset an impeccable sense of where to draw the line, always letting its eyebrow arch only just enough. Thankfully, Jean Dujardin plays the lead character more as a rakish Inspector Clouseau bumbler than a sexed-up Austin Powers libertine, so instead of the fart jokes and gay panic (well, there's still a little gay panic), "OSS 117" pushes its subtextual irony to skewer the cultural imperialism that was always lurking beneath the surface of thrillers from the Cold War era. Light and fun, if also a little slight, "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies" is like a pleasant sorbet to wash away the aftertaste of the pre-summer clunkers.

Mark Olsen

"OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes. In French with English subtitles. At Landmark's Nuart, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A., (310) 281-8223.

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