Review: Female Agents (Les Femmes de l’ombre)

the female agents

Female Agents, in the original French Les Femmes de l’ombre, is a World War II story, taking place in the last few days before the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

In late May 1944, in London, Lieutenant Pierre Desfontaines (Julien Boisselier) and his sister Louise Desfontaines (Sophie Marceau) convince three other women to join a task force under Pierre’s command to rescue a British geologist who knows the D-Day plan. He’s been captured and is in a hospital in France. Mild spoilers ahead.

The main character, Louise, is a resistance fighter. She’s a crack shot with a rifle, and a nurse.

The film poster

The siblings recruit a prostitute Jeanne Faussier (Julie Depardieu) who is imprisoned for murdering her pimp, explosives expert Gaëlle Lemenech (Déborah François), and the former fiancee of Colonel Karl Heindrich (Moritz Bleibtreu) Suzy Desprez (Marie Gillain). They fly to France and join the Italian agent Maria Luzzato (Maya Sansa) in the assignment.

The film is intricately plotted, beautifully shot, and full of exciting action. Even though you know the outcome in terms of D-Day, you do not know what is going to happen to these 5 women in the course of their dangerous assignment. It’s thrilling to see a story like this told about women fighters. Among the group of women who never met before that day in late May, we see heroism, sacrifice, cowardice, ingenuity, fear, determination, betrayal, and fearlessness.

A scene at a railway station
Sophie Marceau and Marie Gillain in “Female Agents.” The cinematography in the film is frequently gorgeous.

They succeed in rescuing the geologist. Pierre then forces the women to travel to Paris to kill Colonel Heindrich. They will get to him using his former fiancee as bait. Heindrich is a target because he suspects the landing of the allied forces will be through Normandy. He cannot get anyone above him to believe it. Heindrich is searching for anything he can use to convince the high command that the invasion will not be in Calais. Even though Heindrich’s lost the geologist as an informant to present to the high command, he manages to capture Pierre and some of the women and hopes to torture them into talking.

The 2008  film is available on Netflix, Amazon Video, iTunes and elsewhere. The film is subtitled, of course, and is a mix of French, German and English. Female Agents was directed by Jean-Paul Salomé.

Watch the English Trailer for Female Agents

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