Tinker Tailor Gallic Spy: Masterly stylish slow burning espionage series is a gripping drama.
As the spy who came in from warmer climes, French intelligence operative Malotru is recalled to Paris after spending six years in Damascus. Leaving behind a life recruiting new agents in the field he struggles to cope with the prospect of a desk-bound job at the Directorate General of External Security (DGSE).
A world away from Ian Fleming’s view of spycraft, at times The Bureau plays out like an anti-Bond. Cynical, complex, and realistic, the series channels John Le Carre’s pessimistic view of the intelligence community. Expertly sketched atmosphere pours through every frame in this portrait of tradecraft and it’s consequences.
Based on accounts by former agents, The Bureau also draws from contemporary geopolitical events. Though France’s operations in Syria serves as the story’s backdrop, the narrative’s main focus is an agent’s behaviour threatening to bring down the entire department and put France’s security at risk.
Film actor Mathieu Kassovitz plays Malotru, an operative suffering from an acute case of Post-Mission Syndrome. After a six-year absence from his homeland, he is reunited with a daughter who barely remembers him and knows nothing about his work. During his time in Damascus he fell in love and is now forced to relinquish all ties with his undercover identity. Convinced he is one step ahead of his enemies and allies, Malotru breaches security protocol and reaches out to his former girlfriend unaware that she is already in Paris on the false pretence of attending a UNESCO sponsored course.
In a world of secrets and lies knowing when to ditch a false identity will save countless lives. Nadia (Zineb Triki) only knows Malotru’s undercover alias. She believes he is a teacher taking a sabbatical to write a novel. His superiors are unaware that he has reactivated “Paul Lefebvre” and begun living a double life. As their relationship blossoms the lovers will be forced to choose sides in a war against terror.
Less stylised than Homeland and more authentic than Spooks, The Bureau has a strong claim to being the most realistic depiction of twenty-first-century espionage on TV. Series creator Eric Rochant’s 1994 thriller The Patriots is used as a training film by the French intelligence community which led to the showrunner and his team being given special permission to visit the DGSC and speak with former agents.
Expertly building tension throughout the season, it’s a perfectly paced excursion into a world of subterfuge and betrayal. Distinctively directed, this understated show is filled with enough edge of the seat moments to make you devour it in a single sitting. Undeniably the best French show to reach these shores since Spiral‘s first season, The Bureau is an exceptional series.