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An ordinary day at the intelligence office

The Office
Regissør: Eric Rochant

The Le Bureau agent series takes place in a recognizable political reality, where knowledge is both power and a negotiable commodity – in addition to focusing on the French intelligence service as a workplace. 


The French Agent Series The Office has become a "talk show" among TV series enthusiasts, a few months after NRK released the three produced seasons on its website just before Christmas. In a way, it was strange that the state channel did not clear away linear television time for this lavish and critically acclaimed series, but the idea is likely to get more and more over to NRK's ​​web player, by building a Netflix-like selection here. It might not be that stupid.

Surely it is at least that The Office (The Bureau of Legends), which is about a branch of the French intelligence service DGSE, lives up to its good reputation. The series introduces us to secret agent Guillaume "Malotru" Debailly (Mathieu Kassovitz) as he returns from Syria in advance of the Arab Spring. Here he has ended the relationship with Nadia El Mansour (Zineb Triki), who does not know his real profession or identity. When she later emerges in Paris in the wake of top secret peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition, he reconnects with her behind the back of her employers, and with that he eventually puts both her life and the intelligence services' operations at risk. In parallel, the first season of the series follows both freshman Marina Loiseau (Sara Giraudeau), who has been selected for a potential assignment in Iran, and the intelligence agency's work to find a third agent, whom they have suddenly lost touch with in Algeria.

The Office is very specific to which nations, conflicts and organizations it deals with.

Agents in office landscape. The Office has several similarities to Homeland, as well as the Israeli series We don't die, on which the American television series is based. At the same time, the series attaches great importance to portraying the intelligence service as workplace, focusing both on what it takes to work under false identity in the field and what it is like to work in the French intelligence office. Not least on the everyday aspects of the latter, with a not insignificant degree of recognizability from workplaces most. Scenes where the agents and other employees, for example, stand and chat about the poorly functioning coffee machine, give the series a lucid humor, well noticeable without tipping into "queue on the printer" sketches (for those who remember the police parody homicide from the humor series Open Post).

With this office focus – "Le Bureau" also means "the office" – the series may be best described as a French variant of Homeland iced items from Mad Men og The Wire. I also dare say that the action lines in all three seasons in The Office are more composed and intricate than Homeland at its best. The creators of the series take the time to tell the story (s) in a thorough manner that maintains credibility in both character development and grand political intrigue, but the dramatic turning points come frequently and in ways other than one would expect.

Smart and refreshing. First and foremost, this is a thriller series, and the everyday aspect never gets in the way of the tension elements. Rather, this means that you care more about the characters who regularly end up in life-threatening situations – where they are typically at risk of being revealed, and often have to think two or three moves further than their intelligent enemies. And not least get these trivial elements The Office to feels refreshing and different, even though it uses most of the spy thriller conventions – or tropes, as they say today.

Complex characters. Our husband Malotru is in many ways a James Bond-like character (albeit with a daughter from a broken marriage), while the series does not have the rush to show his physical abilities as an agent. His mental and manipulative skills, on the other hand, we will soon become acquainted with. The Office also continues the tendency within the series format to create complex main characters with far more dark sides than is usually found in the more limited length of the feature film, and where it is alternated between who the viewer sympathizes with. A trend that largely emerges from The Sopranos, with both aforementioned Mad Men, Breaking Bad. og Game of Thrones like other obvious examples.

It is also noted that it has been a while since Jack Bauer in the American television series 24 fought against (and, by the way, often tortured) terrorists from unspecified Middle East countries. The Office is very specific to which nations, conflicts and organizations it deals with, and this appears as a (relatively) realistic and very up-to-date series.

Scenes where the agents and other staff stand talking about the poorly functioning coffee machine add a touch of humor to the series.

Extensive monitoring. It's not just about intelligence against countries like Syria and Iran, but also about how Western allies are spying on each other – with occasional clear reference to real-life episodes in that sense. The series goes into great detail about what methods can be used to monitor and monitor, and what extensive resources are put into this work – and makes an ironic point that one often fails to achieve the desired goals of the operations.

The Office takes place in a recognizable political reality, where knowledge has value both as power, as insurance and as a negotiable commodity. And where you sometimes have to fight as much to keep your own businesses secret as to acquire information about others.

Impressively enough, it is difficult to see any quality loss through the three seasons from 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively. If anything, this exceptionally smart and elegantly told series has become more exciting along the way. This is due both to the increasing use of thriller elements and to the fact that we have become increasingly familiar with the fascinating and, in part, charming cast gallery. Fortunately, a fourth season is also in production.

The three seasons of Le Bureau are available on NRK's ​​web player.


Aleksander Huser
Aleksander Huser
Huser is a regular film critic in Ny Tid.

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