After battling a stress-related drink problem, quiet office clerk Duval (François Cluzet) is hired by a secretive, government-appointed security firm to transcribe telephone wiretaps involving VIPs at the highest level. Although sworn to secrecy, one particular tape rings an alarm bell that Duval cannot ignore. Unfortunately, his concerns merely plunge him deeper into his employers' wider businesses of cover-ups, duplicity and murder. Trust goes through the shredder in this clinical conspiracy thriller.
Opting for mood and economy over rigour and genuine mystery, tyro writer-director Thomas Kruithof delivers a no-frills calling card with a political thriller that borrows liberally from the genre's 70s heyday.
Wearing its influences on its sleeve, it wastes no time in pitching its Hitchcockian stooge-hero (Cluzet) into a murky web of eavesdropped conversations, parallax views and president's men.
A recovering alcoholic, Duval takes a job typing up phone taps for a shady 'security' outfit - the sort that doesn't hand out written contracts but expects its casual employees to follow countless menacing rules and restrictions.
It doesn't take long before Duval comes across a tape that clearly doesn't end well for one of the callers. It's enough to make Duval want out. Unfortunately, sinister field operative Gerfaut (Simon Abkarian) merely takes that as his cue to drag Duval into a world of pain and trouble.
Things happen fast. A little too fast really. Despite apparently being watched by everyone, Duval finds himself under exactly the level of surveillance required to trigger the next plot turn.
And although Kruithof and his co-writers give Duval a symbolic jigsaw puzzle to solve and a young alcoholic to sponsor (Alba Rohrwacher, making the most of a generic role), it's not difficult to see where the bigger picture is heading.
Kruithof opens strongly and sustains a suitably spartan mood, but by sacrificing intrigue for pace he struggles to create a real sense of urgency. Still, it'll stay streets ahead of the inevitable Nicolas Cage remake.