Starring A Prophet‘s Tahar Rahim as Jean and Blue is the Warmest Color‘s Adele Exarchopoulos as Judith, Elie Wajeman’s film is set in 1899 Paris. Jean is a regular issue policeman who gets plucked from the ranks for special assignment because of his sharp intellect and lack of connection to his own past. His task: infiltrate an Anarchist set taking root in Paris. His real challenge: avoid falling far the group’s radical matriarch Judith whose doe eyes will make any man swoon.
While Jean succeeds wildly at the first task, the second challenge proves mostly impossible. The early infiltration scenes of Jean working at a slumland nail factory give the film a much needed sense of scope. But once Jean is inside, the rest of movie plays out in a series of dimly lit salons. This is great for building character as the anarchists argue over politics, tactics, and loyalties, but the tradeoff is a lacking sense of time and place.
We are all familiar with the “in too deep” scenario. But Wajeman eschews many conventions of the undercover drama by spending precious little time developing much of the plot around the anarchists. The action plays out like a heist film and the scenes are mostly enjoyable, but the disregard for proper plotting of events makes the film feel rather loosely wound.