In 1944, in London, Lieutenant Pierre Desfontaines assigns his sister Louise Desfontaines to convince...
1.85 : 1
French, German, English
Rescue, 1944, Resistance, Commando, D Day
DTS, Dolby Digital
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Female Agents (French: Les Femmes de l'ombre) is a 2008 French historical drama film directed by Jean-Paul Salomé and starring Sophie Marceau, Julie Depardieu, Marie Gillain, Déborah François, and Moritz Bleibtreu. Written by Salomé and Laurent Vachaud, the film is about female resistance fighters in the Second World War. Jean-Paul Salomé, the director, drew inspiration from an obituary in The Times newspaper of Lise de Baissac (Lise Villameur), from Mauritius (then a British colony), one of the few recognised heroines of the SOE, named "Louise Desfontaines" in the film and played by Sophie Marceau. The film was partly funded by BBC Films.
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In 1944, in London, Lieutenant Pierre Desfontaines assigns his sister Louise Desfontaines to convince three other women to form a five-woman task force under his command to rescue a British geologist from a German hospital in the countryside. The geologist was assigned by Colonel Maurice Buckmaster in a reconnaissance mission of the soil of the beaches at Normandy for the D-Day and had been captured by the Germans. Louise and Pierre force the prostitute Jeanne Faussier that is imprisoned for murdering her pimp; the explosives expert Gaëlle Lemenech that misses action; and the former dancer and fiancé of Colonel Karl Heindrich, Suzy Desprez, using blackmail and unethical methods to fly to France and join the Italian agent Maria Luzzato in the assignment. They are well-succeeded but when they deliver the geologist to the British aeroplane, Pierre betrays the group. He forces the women to travel to Paris to kill Colonel Heindrich who suspects that the landing of the allied forces will be through Normandy, in a dangerous mission.
- Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In May 1944, a group of French servicewomen and resistance fighters are enlisted into the British Special Operations Executive commando group under the command of Louise Desfontaines and her brother Pierre. Their mission, to rescue a British army geologist caught reconnoitering the beaches at Normandy, and to kill a German SS colonel who is close to figuring out the imminent secret of D-Day, proves to be emotional and brutal. The story is inspired by the accomplishments of decorated SOE agent Lisé de Baissac.
- Written by Keith D. Tyler
Female Agents (2008) More at IMDbPro »
Les femmes de l'ombre (original title)
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Louise Desfontaines (Sophie Marceau), a successful French commando in the British Special Operations Executive, watches her husband killed during a sabotage mission on a German train depot. Upon her return, she and her brother Pierre (Julien Boisselier) are sent by Colonel Buckmaster (Colin David Reese) on a critical mission to rescue a captured British geologist (Conrad Cecil), who was examining the sands on the beaches of Normandy in advance of D-Day, from a nearby military hospital. She and Pierre convince a selection of women from among the FANY nurses' corps and French Resistance onto the team: Jeanne (Julie Depardieu), Suzy (Marie Gillain), and Gaëlle (Déborah François).
German SS Colonel Heindrich (Moritz Bleibtreu) has uncovered evidence of the geologist's presence at Normandy, and tries to convince military leaders that the Allies are planning to land at Normandy, but is laughed out of the room. Heindrich needs some solid proof of his suspicions, and his officers identify the geologist at the Normandy hospital. Heindrich travels to the hospital and tries to pry information from the geologist.
Meanwhile, Pierre has laid out a plan by which two of the female SOE agents will perform as cabaret dancers, as part of a show for the officers stationed at the hospital, while Louise poses as a nurse. The cabaret finish their striptease by tossing tear gas canisters under the seated officers (including Heindrich) while Louise and an undercover FANY nurse, Maria (Maya Sansa), free the geologist in a harrowing escape, with Heindrich in pursuit. While being taken to the airlift site, the geologist reveals to Pierre that Heindrich "knows about Phoenix", a code word for the planned Normandy operation.
Pierre realizes that Heindrich must be prevented from passing on what he knows to the German command in order to safeguard the Normandy invasion plans. He orders the women, who expected to be done after the Normandy rescue, to travel to Paris, where Heindrich is stationed. After they leave, German officers arrive at the landing site, and capture Pierre. Heindrich tortures Pierre for information, but Pierre resists.
Heindrich's staff develop a photo that was taken by an officer at the cabaret show in Normandy, and recover a clear image of Gaëlle, one of the Desfontaines' team. At the Paris train station, Gaëlle is apprehended, and the rest of the team finds shelter in a music school which is a cover for the French Resistance. Heindrich presents Gaëlle to Pierre, threatening to torture her if he doesn't talk, hoping to appeal to Pierre's empathy. An officer pulls out one of Gaëlle's fingernails, and she immediately reveals the location of the school where the rest of the team is hiding. While Heindrich's men arrive at the school, the girls escape through a secret passage to the Paris catacombs. Imprisoned together, Pierre tries to strangle Gaëlle but is stopped by their captors.
Desfontaines meets with a contact at the Natural History Museum, Melchior (Robin Renucci), who informs her of a plan to assassinate Heindrich at the Concorde metro station. It has been discovered that Suzy, one of Desfontaine's team, has had a previous relationship with Heindrich; she will be used as a lure, through an undercover tip, to get Heindrich to the station. Louise is provided with a sniper rifle to execute Heindrich while her team takes positions in the station. At the station, Heindrich arrives on the tip, but cannot be seen by Louise, who hides in the subway tunnel. With the help of members of the French Resistance, the train is held up, with Suzy aboard. Heindrich approaches the train, but Louise cannot get a clear shot; he enters the train and approaches Suzy. Maria, on the train and caught off guard, hastily attempts to shoot Heindrich, but is shot and killed by Heindrich's men. Heindrich, realizing the trap, gets off the train; Louise takes a shot, but only grazes his ear. The women manage to capture Eddy (Vincent Rottiers), a young socialite member of Heindrich's staff, who the women coerce into helping them.
A new plan to assassinate Heindrich is hatched, again using Suzy as lure but also as gunwoman. Eddy informs Heindrich that a woman resembling Suzy will be at a nearby hotel. Jeanne, posing as a maid, plants a gun under the pillow of the bed. Heindrich arrives at Suzy's hotel room, and begins to romance her. She grabs the gun and aims, but she is unable to shoot her former lover. Heindrich takes the gun away and begins to kiss her on the bed. Outside, Louise and Melchior hear gunshots, and Jeanne runs out the back entrance. Louise and Melchior watch as a body covered with a sheet is wheeled out of the hotel, shortly followed by Heindrich.
Louise is captured by Heindrich, and torturing her in front of Pierre, he persuades Pierre to reveal all he knows. Pierre, obtaining a promise from Heindrich that Louise will not be executed, reveals all of the secrets of the plans to use flooded pontoons to rapidly build a harbour at Normandy for a massive landing of Allied troops. While Pierre confirms Heindrich's suspicions, he realizes hell still need hard proof to convince General Rommel of his discovery, so he plans to take Pierre with him to Rommel as evidence. But, as the handcuffed Louise looks on, Pierre, in a desperate bid to escape further humiliation - using a blade grabbed from the torture table - commits suicide by slitting his own throat. Denied his proof, Heindrich renegs on his promise, and plans to have Louise executed.
Back in their cell, Louise joins Gaëlle, who begs for forgiveness and help from Louise, who gives both in the form of a tearful nod and the passing of her cyanide pill. After Louise is taken away, Gaëlle prays alone in her cell, strips naked, lies on the floor, and takes the pill.
While being transported, Louise is rescued by Jeanne and Melchoir, a member of the French Resistance whom Louise had met at the Museum of Natural History, though Melchior is killed. Jeanne and Louise rush to the station where Heindrich is planning to leave for a last-chance attempt to convince Rommel. Jeanne tells Louise she will cause a distraction, and not to worry about her. She walks up to the station Gestapo and shoots one of them, immediately being arrested. Louise walks down the platform and finds Heindrich, and shoots him down.
We see Louise back in SOE headquarters, where Buckmaster offers Louise and her group his personal thanks, though Louise demands he find Jeanne. At her FANY role at a military hospital, Buckmaster arrives with a series of photos ( taken at the liberation of Jeanne's concentration camp) . The last photo Louise sees is of Jeanne, lying topless and expressionless with a rope around her neck. There's a soulful ending with Louise lighting four candles in church in rememberance.
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