OSS 117: From Africa with Love Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

 

1981 year. 14 years have passed since the adventures of agent 117 Hubert Bonisser de la Bata in Rio. Hubert completed a deadly mission in Afghanistan, where he fell into the clutches of Soviet soldiers, but managed to escape from them and returned to Paris, to his native “Service for External Documentation and Combating It.”

However, the head of agent 117 Armand Lesignac (Vladimir Iordanov) is in no hurry to give Hubert a new task. They’ve got a new agent prospect who’s been given the number 1001 (Pierre Ninet) – well, they’ve run out of three-digit agent numbers, you know.

The 1001st is young, hot, well prepared, and most importantly, he is well versed in all sorts of subtle political issues that agent 117 did not want to understand. That is why 1001 was sent by Lesignac to the state of Black Africa, where the rebels intend to overthrow the French-friendly dictator Kuju Sangawa Bamboo (Balla Habib Dembele). The 1001st must find out exactly who supplies the rebels with weapons.

And agent 117… He was sent to the computer department: to digitize documents with the latest technology and learn the Cobol language. Hubert did not protest and obediently began to master the computer. However, after some time, Arman again summoned agent 117: it turns out that the 1001st disappeared in Africa, so the 117th will have to find and save the newcomer, and in addition – to complete the mission.

***

Secret agent 117 Hubert Bonisserde de la Bathe is the hero of novels by French writer Jean Bruce, and the first novel about the adventures of agent 117 was published in 1949, four years before Ian Fleming’s first book about James Bond, which was called “Casino Royale”. Bruce wrote several dozen novels about the adventures of Agent 117, and the first film based on the novels about this hero was released in 1957.

In 2006, the famous French director Michel Hazanavicius released the parody comedy “Agent 117 (OSS 117: Le Caire nid d’espions)”, in which Jean Dujardin played Hubert. The script for the film was written by Jean-Francois Alyn and Michel Hazanavicius. In Hazanavicius’s film, Agent 117, who in Bruce’s novels looked like a kind of “Jamesbond” even before the appearance of James Bond himself, appeared as a completely parody character.

Hubert Bonnicer de la Bath in this film is stupid, stupid, considers the French the best representatives of mankind, he is confident in his own irresistibility and at the same time constantly makes serious mistakes. In general, this agent 117 is a rather unpleasant personality. However, since he was played by Jean Dujardin – an actor with powerful charisma coupled with incredible charm – even such a ridiculous agent 117 evoked sympathy from the audience, so the first film rolled very well and had a high rating. Moreover, the parodic and satirical component of the picture was quite obvious.

The second film, which was released in 2009, three years after the release of the first film, was also directed by Michel Hazanavicius. Hubert in this film carried out a certain mission in Rio, along the way, not forgetting to insult the Chinese, Brazilians, Jews, Germans, women and everyone who came across to him at all. The sequel was made in the style of the first film, many of the episodes were incredibly funny (in the “chase” scene in the hospital with IVs, Bublik and I just laughed out loud), and was also very successful.

With the triquel, the case dragged on. Michel Hazanavicius was planning to work on it: he had an idea to show Agent 117 aging, balding and having lost his former chic, and he wanted to transfer the action to Africa and put the whole picture in the style of blaxploitation. However, this idea caused serious objections from the screenwriter Jean-Francois Alin, who worked on the scripts for the first two films, the producers were also not enthusiastic about it, as a result of which Hazanavicius left the project due to creative differences.

After some time, director Nicolas Bedos joined the development of the triquel, whose career gradually gained momentum: first he released a good film “He and She”, and then made an excellent film “Belle Epoque”. The candidacy of Bedos suited the producers, Nicolas found a common language with the screenwriter, and together they wrote the script for a triquel in which Hubert is exactly the same as he was in the first two films.

The original title “Agent 117 / OSS 117: Alerte rouge en Afrique noire” translates as “Agent 117: Red Alert in Black Africa”, but “From Africa with Love” is not the arbitrariness of Russian distributors: the fact is that the film has the second name is “OSS 117: Bons baisers d’Afrique” – the picture contains obvious parodies of some Bond films – and in the English-speaking regions it came out under the name “OSS 117: From Africa with Love”.

In the triquel, Hubert does not change himself: he continues to make sexist jokes, demonstrates typical colonial thinking, but at the same time he tries to fulfill the order of his superiors to respect Africans and not spoil relations with them, and he shows this “respect” in a very peculiar way, as he, however, peculiar. At the same time, the creators of the picture swung at the most sacred – Hubert’s diligently demonstrated machismo, which in one of the scenes where Hubert seemed to easily seduce the beauty Michelle Pearson from the hotel, gave a serious failure: Hubert Jr. refused to come to the fore and perform a combat mission, and Michelle after that, he was repeatedly mocked about this in the most sexist and unacceptable way.

The very image of Hubert has not undergone any major changes: he is the same as in the first two films, and Jean Dujardin continues to play him with the same level of charm and self-irony.

A significant part of the storyline is occupied by the joint work of Hubert with the newcomer 1001st. The new agent is played by an interesting actor Pierre Nine (just recently I saw him in the lead role in a good film “The Black Box”): at first he seems to admire the 117th, who has vast experience and is generally a legend, but when the 1001st met with Hubert closer, then he realized who he was, and they had already begun rather a rivalry, in which there were all sorts of funny moments.

Nine played the young agent well: he had a completely different character compared to the “Black Box”, and this metrosexual special agent 1001 from Pierre turned out to be very interesting and original.

What to say about the level? Well, compared to the first two films, the level still went down a bit. There are funny moments, but they are not at all as cool and funny as in the first two films. It is hard to argue with the fact that the Hazanavicius-Dujardin tandem is noticeably more creative than the Bedos-Dujardin tandem. However, although the bar was lowered, it was definitely not dropped.

When I saw the rating of the picture on IMDB, I thought that it would be really bad, but I can’t say that I regretted that I decided to watch this film after all. Yes, the triquel is somewhat inferior to the previous two films, yes, it is completely optional for viewing, but this is definitely not a failure: as a triquel, it’s even quite good. There are a lot of sequels that are generally unclear why they were released. Here, although they didn’t reach it a little, nevertheless it’s quite watchable and funny, so I won’t throw a stone at this triquel and at the creators of the picture.

Well, I’ll separately note the well-made titles with a parody of Bond, there is also really good musical accompaniment, and the music was written by Nicolas Bedos himself (in general, apparently, he is a very versatile person) together with Anna-Sophie Vernaeyen, with whom he wrote music for “Beautiful era”.

In general, I’m not disappointed, which is already good. Let’s take it as a given.

PS I also note that the French, unlike the Americans, still respect great Russia, so the Soviet military at the beginning of the film (a typical combat beginning of any James Bond film) is still voiced by the Russians, which is clearly audible.

OSS 117: Alerte rouge en Afrique noire

Director: Nicolas Bedos Cast: Jean Dujardin, Pierre Ninet, Fatu N’Diaye, Natasha Lindinger, Vladimir Iordanov, Gilles Cohen, Balla Habib Dembele, Ivan Franek, Paul White, Emil Abossolo Mbo

Worldwide gross: $13.4 million
Parody comedy, France-Belgium, 2021, 117 min.

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