A slick French TV thriller in the vein of “Spooks”, “The Bureau” – a Canal+ production – centres around the lives and missions of the operatives of the DGSE (General Directorate for External Security, the French equivalent of MI6) as they coordinate the covert activities of agents around the world.
When one of the DGSE’s top agents, Guillaume Debailly aka Malotru (Mathieu Kassovitz) returns from a six-year undercover mission in Syria his return coincides with a major crisis as another undercover agent mysteriously vanishes in Algeria. While Debailly is tasked with training new recruit Marina (Sara Giraudeau) for her upcoming mission to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear programme, the many undercover lives he has lived come back to haunt him when a former lover from Syria arrives in Paris. Coincidence, or has he been compromised? Debailly will risk everything for love, violating the rules of the agency and threatening the Bureau itself.
With Paris and France itself currently on the frontline of real world terrorist aggression, “The Bureau” benefits from a topical frisson that crackles through each episode. It’s a dive off the deep end into the murky waters of La Piscine as the Republic faces up to enemies at home and abroad, foreign and domestic. With an international plot which involves a complex web of dirty deals and counter espionage as the CIA, the FSB and ISIS become entangled with the DGSE’s activities, there’s more than enough intrigue to keep you hooked for the 10 episode run time and leave you yearning for the second season.
The performances are solid all round, particularly Mathieu Kassovitz, Sara Giraudeau and Jean-Pierre Darroussin’s Henri Duflot, the Director of the Clandestine Service. It may not be quite as action packed as “Spooks” or as bombastic as “24” but “The Bureau” is quality spycraft drama, gripping in its portrayal of the move and countermove of the grand international game chess game of espionage and the human lives caught up in its machinations.
Released on DVD on Monday 16th January by Arrow Films, “The Bureau” is available in its original French with English subtitles.