You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Mobius’

While not quite a “Notorious” F.L.O.P., French spy thriller and Hitchcock wannabe “Mobius” struggles to suggest why its central pair of lovers would want to be together beyond physical compatibility and plot necessities. Gallic helmer Eric Rochant latest espionage story, after 1994’s Cannes competish title “The Patriots,” casts Jean Dujardin as a stubbly Russian mole who falls head over heels for Cecile de France’s sexy Franco-American trader, someone who’s so good, she single-handedly brought down Lehman Bros. The pic’s local Feb. 27 release opened decently, but its Europudding execution won’t help its international prospects.

Produced with backing from Luc Besson’s Europacorp, this Euro big-budgeter looks pretty slick, though no amount of fancy French Riviera locations can compensate for the screenplay’s bowl-of-spaghetti plotting, which is far more convoluted than the titular strip.

Dujardin is Gregory Lioubov, a Russian secret agent who’s stationed in sunny yet sinister Monaco to keep an eye on a suspicious Russian businessman, Rostovsky (Tim Roth). He’s also being watched by Alice (Cecile de France), a star trader of mixed French-American parentage who’s also been recruited to spy on the industrialist.

Popular on Variety

Just as in Hitchcock’s spy romance “Notorious,” mixed with a dash of the director’s French/Russian undercover yarn “Topaz,” the spooks fall for each other, even as Rostovsky tries to hit on Alice as well. The scene in which the trader and Gregory, the latter posing as a French literary editor, first meet is played just right, with the two measuring each other across the room before finally making some small talk.

The pic’s reliance on glances rather than words serves to illustrate the primarily physical attraction of the couple, though Rochant’s zooms and pans in this scene especially feel like something from the 1990s (perhaps not coincidentally when the helmer made “The Patriots”).

But as the undercover lovers fall in lust, and sweatily and breathlessly consummate their relationship on multiple occasions, one would expect there would be a growing emotional bond between the two that would necessitate something like a regular conversation. That this fails to materialize suggests that either both are heartless sex addicts or people for whom a purely physical relationship is enough to stay together. Either option leaves their characters hard to care for.

Elsewhere, Rochant tries to compensate for the lack of non-sexual tension by overly complicating the rest of the intrigue, which also involves a duplicitous Monaco Financial Police officer (Emilie Dequenne) who likes to meet Alice in a sauna; and the CIA, seen in some laughably bad scenes in which U.S. smallscreen stars (Wendell Pierce, John Lynch, Brad Leland) are called upon to keep straight faces while uttering embarrassingly generic, F-bomb-laden dialogue.

In an effort to make local auds forget about the all-smiles undercover agent he played in the genre-pastiche “OSS 117” films, Dujardin tries hard to look brooding, but fails to bring much else to the table, including the necessary Russian — supposedly Gregory’s mother tongue. De France fares better in an unusually feminine and assertive role, though Alice is also stuck with some terrible dialogue in both French and English. Roth, as an English-accented Russian ruffian, and Dequenne have little more than glorified walk-on roles.

Though the lighting lacks finesse, production values are generally high, with the locations that appropriately scream bad-taste nouveau riche. Music choices, such as a song by the Red Army Choir, are a little stale and on-the-nose, just like the French-Riviera clubs where the characters hang out.



Reviewed at UGC Cine Cite Les Halles, Paris, Feb. 28, 2013. (In Tribeca Film Festival — Special Screenings; Berlin Film Festival — market.) Running time: 108 MIN.

A Europacorp. release of a Reci Films, Axel Films presentation and production, in association with Les Prods. du Tresor, Europacorp., France 3 Cinema, JD Prod, Artemis Prods., Samsa Film, with the participation of Canal Plus, Cine Plus, France Televisions, 13eme rue. (International sales: Europacorp, Paris.) Produced by Mathias Rubin, Eric Juherian, Christophe Cervoni. Co-producers, Jani Thiltges, Patrick Quinet, Christophe Lambert, Marc Dujardin, Daniel Goudineau.

Directed, written by Eric Rochant. Camera (color, widescreen, 35mm-to-HD), Pierre Novion; editor, Pascale Fenouillet; music, Jonathan Morali; production designer, Philippe Chiffre; costume designer, Carine Sarfati; sound (Dolby SRD), Marc Engels; visual effects supervisor, Claude Kongs; line producers, Stephane Quinet, Roman Kindrachuk, Alex Orlov; associate producer, Alain Attal; assistant director, Marc Baraduc.

With: Jean Dujardin, Cecile de France, Tim Roth, Emilie Dequenne, Aleksei Gorbunov, Vladimir Menshov, Prasana Puwanarajah, Wendell Pierce, Vicky Krieps, John Lynch, Brad Leland.

(French, Russian, English dialogue)

Film Review: 'Mobius'

More Film

  • International Film Festival and Awards Macao

    Macao Industry Debate: Streaming Not Done Reshaping Indie Film Business

    New viewing habits brought on by the rise of streaming have hastened the demise of the mid-budget American indie, changed the very definition of arthouse cinema, and shaken the indie distribution business. But theatrical is still here to stay, attendees of the Macao International Film Festival’s closed-door industry panels concluded Saturday. Panelists gathered to discuss [...]

  • Arab and African Filmmakers Are Increasingly

    Arab and African Filmmakers Are Increasingly Focusing on Genre Films and Series

    2019 has been an excellent year for films from Africa and the Middle East, with a higher presence in A-list festivals, and kudos for films such as Mati Diop’s “Atlantics,” which won the Grand Prix at Cannes. The “new wave” of Arab and African cinema includes a small group of films that explore links with [...]

  • Producer Said Hamich on 'Zanka Contact,'

    Producer Said Hamich on Atlas Workshop Winner 'Zanka Contact,' Upcoming Projects

    Two projects from Franco-Moroccan producer Saïd Hamich won big at the Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshop this year, with the upcoming Kamal Lazraq-directed feature “Les Meutes” nabbing a development prize and the recently wrapped “Zanka Contact” winning an $11,000 post-production grant. “Zanka Contact” director Ismaël El Iraki was on-hand to present 10 minutes of footage, [...]

  • Major Film Festivals Are Becoming Key

    Major Film Festivals Are Becoming Key in Promoting Films From the Arab World, Africa

    Looking back at the lineups of key festivals such as Cannes and Venice this year, 2019 stands out as a banner year for movies from the African continent and the Arab world. During a panel hosted at the Netflix-sponsored industry event Atlas Workshops during the Marrakech Film Festival, Rémi Bonhomme, who works at Cannes’ Critics’ [...]

  • Robert RedfordRobert Redford tribute, 18th Marrakech

    Robert Redford Talks About Potential Next Film, U.S. Politics, Life Philosophy

    During a 90-minute onstage conversation at the Marrakech Film Festival, where he received an honorary tribute, Robert Redford spoke about his life-long quest for truth and freedom, and his political engagement through films, as well as a long-gestating project he’s considering producing, despite having announced his retirement. When he has spoken about the project, “109 [...]

  • For Sama SXSW Cannes Documentary

    'For Sama' Wins Best Feature at International Documentary Association Awards

    Syrian Civil War diary “For Sama” has won the best feature award from the International Documentary Association for Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts. The award was presented by Frances Fisher on Saturday night at the 35th Annual IDA Documentary Awards at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The first-time award for Best Director went to Steven Bognar and Julia [...]

  • Two/One

    Macao Film Review: 'Two/One'

    Sometimes when you look out of an airplane window during a long-haul flight you get a view like the God’s-eye imagery that occasionally punctuates Argentinian filmmaker Juan Cabral’s intriguing debut: a dark, curved horizon rimmed with the glimmer of a new dawn. “Two/One,” the celebrated advertising director’s first full-length feature, seems born of this lofty, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content