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Mobius | Review

False Positive: Rochant’s Latest a Trashy, Muddled Mess

Mobius Eric Rochant PosterFrench director Eric Rochant, no stranger to espionage themed genre exercises upon a quick glance at his filmography (Les Patriotes), delivers a surprisingly inept turkey with his latest film, Mobius, an uber glossy, superficially chic potboiler that’s as tawdry as it is overly complicated. While there’s an undeniable appeal front lining this schlocky endeavor in its pair of attractive European stars, Jean Dujardin and Cecile De France, not even they or the intriguing names peppered throughout the considerable supporting cast manage to appear as anything other than laughable.

Crossing over the sweeping vista of Monaco, we are introduced to Alice (Cecile De France), an international banking executive who specializes in money laundering, which resulted in a scandal that rendered her unable to work in the United States where her ailing father resides. Gregory (Jean Dujardin) and Sandra (Emilie Dequenne) are members of the FSB, a post-KGB secret service entity looking to take down a nefarious Russian oligarch, Ivan Rostrovski (Tim Roth), whom Alice has access to due to her position in the company she works for. While Sandra convinces Alice to spy on Ivan, Gregory is assigned to “sniff” around the imperious Alice at the command of his boss and spiritual father figure, Quitusais (Vladimir Menshov). Quickly it’s revealed that Alice’s involvement with a concurrent CIA based operation convolutes the mix, which is only further complicated by Gregory and Alice’s instant attraction to one another, resulting in a steamy, passionate affair. Needless to say, with a melting pot of competing international agents each wearing multiple masks, the situation becomes a veritable sticky wicket.

While Mobius, (so named for that strip which has only one side and one boundary component discovered by German mathematician August Ferdinand Mobius), begins in earnest, it’s soon evident that Rochant’s material takes itself way too seriously, which is certainly a mistake considering all of it’s odd, disparate and baffling elements. There’s a certain refreshing energy in the idea of a serious spy thriller that hinges on a passionate romance, devoid of high octane explosions and comedic snafus. But what is required from that route is some strong characters, a commanding storyline, and smart dialogue. Mobius has none of that, and seems to indicate that Rochant has little gift for subtlety, banking mostly on his glossy leads.

De France is heavily and distractingly styled here, always constantly chewing on ridiculous chunks of dialogue that sound unconvincing and silly. Worse is Dujardin, who we are supposed to believe is Russian (yes, Belgian actress Dequenne and Brit Tim Roth are supposed to be, too) his smug façade always stagnantly oblivious to most of what’s going on. All hope is lost at the point where the hypersexualized affair begins between the two leads (their romance literally blossoming to Arcade Fire’s Neighborhood #1 – Tunnels), with De France throwing herself wildly into a cooing, shuddering, spectacle of orgasmic pleasure which is, frankly, embarrassing to watch. Their second rendezvous is even more over the top for as it requires post coital dialogue, with De France’s Alice proclaiming Gregory to be “a gift,” while snuggling close, admitting “it’s been a while since I felt at home in the arms of man.”

Between stilted blurbs from CIA agents played by John Lynch and Wendell Pierce in the US, to the useless Russian FSB team under Gregory, to Tim Roth’s strangely monotonous presence, there’s not one moment of actual intrigue throughout the entire running time. By the time it wraps up with its debasing denouement, Eric Rochant’s Mobius reveals itself to be nothing more than a heady reconnaissance soap opera for the post economic crises era.

Reviewed on April 22 at the 2013 COLCOA Film Festival.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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