DVD review: The Bureau (4 out of 5)

Mathieu Kassovitz in The Bureau
Mathieu Kassovitz in The Bureau
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When you work as a special agent who can you trust and what is normal life?

Those are some of the many issues behind The Bureau, a gripping ten-episode French political thriller.

Guillaume Debailly (codename Malotru), one of the General Directorate of External Security’s top agents, returns after a six-year undercover mission in Damascus, Syria.

While there working as a teacher called Paul Lefebvre, he falls in love with Nadia.

When Nadia turns up in Paris he breaks the number one rule and secretly continues his false identity to be with her.

While he is risking it all, the department enters a major crisis when an undercover agent goes missing in Algeria.

Meanwhile, promising new recruit Marina is in training and needs to complete a test of her capabilities before infiltrating Iranian nuclear activity.

Based on the accounts of former spies and topical political situations, the series is very realistic, sometimes harrowing, and a complete eye-opener about how the secret services work.

When agents are hijacked and tortured, for example, they have no idea whether they are in the hands of terrorists or being tested by their own employers.

And how do agents return to their normal life, their real self and continue their relationships with their families and colleagues after years spent posing as someone else in another country?

Faced with all this is Debailly, played to perfection by Mathieu Kassovitz.

As writer and director of La Haine and having played Nino Quincampoix in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film Amélie, he should need no introduction and his professionalism shows.

The DVD box set of The Bureau is released by Arrow Films on January 16. It is also available by digital download.