Secrets of State (2008)

Secrets of State 2008tt1003052.jpg poster

  • IMDb page: Secrets of State (2008)
  • Rate: 6.4/10 total 1,467 votes 
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Date: 10 December 2008 (France)
  • Runtime: 100 min
  • Budget: €11,000,000(estimated)
  • Gross: €3,459,817(France)(11 January 2009)
  • Director: Philippe Haïm
  • Stars: Gérard Lanvin, Vahina Giocante and Nicolas Duvauchelle
  • Original Music By: Alexandre Azaria   
  • Soundtrack: Space Weaver
  • Sound Mix: DTS | Dolby Digital
  • Plot Keyword: Nerve Gas | Wine | Anti Terrorism | University Professor | Subway

Writing Credits By:

    (in alphabetical order)

  • Nathalie Carter  participation
  • Philippe Haïm  idea
  • Julien Sibony  written by

Known Trivia

  • Philippe Haïm started working on this film by writing down everything he could about the D.G.S.E. (the French secret service) and the challenges and threats the agency seems to receive. He then proceeded to write three drafts of the script with the input of several consultants, after which co-writer Julien Sibony came in, and later Nathalie Carter. Not knowing anything about the world of espionage and counter-terrorism, Sibony was able to see the script’s weaknesses, such as when it was unclear for the uninitiated, and Carter was essential to develop Vahina Giocante’s character Diane. In the end, the 18th draft was the shooting script, even though several changes were made while filming and even during the editing process.
  • In preparation for her role, Vahina Giocante gained a basic knowledge of Arabic and developed a specific corporal demeanor for her character, who, according to director/co-writer Philippe Haïm, ages 10 years in the space of a few months.
  • Nicolas Duvauchelle’s first scene was his character’s rape in the prison showers.
  • Approximately 70% of the film was shot with hand-held cameras.
  • Nicolas Duvauchelle’s scene in the isolation cell was heavily improvised by the actor, with minimal direction from director Philippe Haïm
  • Mélanie Laurent was originally set to play the role of Diane, ultimately held by Vahina Giocante.
  • Gérard Lanvin’s involvement was essential to get the film green-lit.
  • Philippe Haïm’s intention with the film was to show the manipulation of “human assets” and the psychological trauma they are thus subjected to.
  • The DVD features an alternate ending where Alex comes home and is surprised by his family and friends.

Goofs: Errors in geography: The terrorist boards Metro line 4 in station Montparnasse. He never changes line. He is pulled out of it in a station where you can see, at the front of the train, a passage going towards line 11. Being in line 4 to change to line 11, you have to take the train northward. But nowhere on line 4 northward, there is any such passage at the front of the train. The only such passage would be at the back of the train, in station Châtelet.

Plot: In France, terrorist groups and intelligence agencies battle in a merciless war everyday, in the name of radically opposed ideologies… See more »  »

Story: In France, terrorist groups and intelligence agencies battle in a merciless war everyday, in the name of radically opposed ideologies. Yet, terrorist and secret agents lead almost the same lives. Condemned to secrecy, these masters of manipulation follow the same methods. Alex and Al Barad are two of them. The former is the head of the D.G.S.E.'s (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure, the French equivalent of the CIA or the MI6) counter-terrorism unit while the latter reigns over a terrorist network, and both fight using the most ruthless of weapons: human beings. Secret Défense (aka Secrets Of State) tells of their secret war through the destinies of Diane, a student recruited by the French secret service, and Pierre, a troubled young man who thinks terrorism will bring him salvation. Trained and indoctrinated for missions which are beyond them…Written by Happy_Evil_Dude  


Synopsis: If French political thriller Secrets of State were any more topical, it would be about what you ate for breakfast. This fast-paced and meticulously-researched tale shows the recruitment and training of a young female Secret Service operative alongside a parallel story about how an unlikely but deadly young male terrorist is created. Each is skilfully manipulated for a cause.

This carefully layered, mostly-plausible tale boasts several suspenseful set pieces. Although it requires near-exhausting concentration to absorb its heady mix of information and high-stakes activity, Secrets of State should appeal to audiences who liked the tone and content of The Interpreter, The Manchurian Candidate remake, or Syriana and would enjoy a Euro-take on the same theme.

Al Barad (Abkarian), a Westernised terrorist posing as a businessman, twists Islamic tenets for political ends. Wine broker Alex (Lanvin) is a high-ranking counter-terrorism specialist, bending or ignoring the law to thwart his opponents and keep France secure.

Both sides are playing a deadly game of chess that regularly requires new human playing pieces – a suicide bomber here, a sexy decoy there. Attractive young Diane (Giocante), who dabbled as a high-priced call girl prior to pursuing a degree in Arabic, is artfully recruited by Alex almost before she knows what hit her.

Training exercises – how to give adversaries the slip, resist interrogation, etc. – convince us that the External Security academy is a pretty cool school and being a secret agent an exciting lifestyle. Diane’s assignment to seduce Al Barad on his home turf may make her feel more alive but could easily lead to her death.

Meanwhile petty drug dealer Pierre (Duvauchelle) is arrested and sent to prison. As the handsome white lad is emotionally and physically vulnerable, he’s ripe for the picking. Under fellow inmate Aziz’s (Belghazi) manipulative guidance, Pierre converts to Islam, convinced he’s found a caring surrogate family. Upon release he attends terrorist boot camp, preparing to serve his handlers on an eventual mission.

Two complex Arab characters — smart, brave field operative Leila (Brakni) and intelligence officer Ahmed (Nebbou), a practicing Muslim whose allegiance to France is horrifically tested — are a fine departure from movie stereotypes. Beyond their inherent importance to the script, Leila and Ahmed are a good example for other screenwriters striving to be politically savvy without being politically correct.

A passage in which various specialists – played by the film’s seven eminent real-life consultants – weigh in on a coded threat, gives viewers a taste of the crucial decisions constantly being made based on a combination of educated guesses and hard-won research. Little in co-screenwriter/director Philippe Haim’s previous work (claustrophobic two-hander Barracuda and live-action comic book adaptation The Daltons) pointed to such a serious and ambitious theme, but he’s definitely up to the task. Two thirds of the sharply-edited film are hand held, creating immediacy and sweeping momentum.

Although it’s not hard to tell the good guys from the bad, there are plenty of grey areas in their all-too-convincing motivations. Both sides use sophisticated indoctrination techniques, and, ideology aside, terrorists and secret agents seem to have a lot in common.

Morocco stands in credibly here for Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Jordan. [D-Man2010]

{tab=FullCast & Crew}

Produced By:

  • Bénédicte Bellocq known as executive producer
  • Alexander Emmert known as consulting producer
  • Souad Lamriki known as executive producer
  • Yves Marmion known as producer
  • Olivier Thaon known as executive producer

FullCast & Crew:

  • Gérard Lanvin known as Alex
  • Vahina Giocante known as Diane / Lisa
  • Nicolas Duvauchelle known as Pierre
  • Mehdi Nebbou known as Ahmed
  • Rachida Brakni known as Leïla / Chadia
  • Simon Abkarian known as Al Barad
  • Aurélien Wiik known as Jérémy
  • Katia Lewkowicz known as Aline
  • Kamel Belghazi known as Aziz
  • Djemel Barek known as Khaled
  • Carim Messalti known as Hajj
  • Hassam Ghancy known as Danar
  • Nicolas Marié known as Fouche
  • Salem Kali known as Salem
  • Moussa Maaskri known as Slim
  • Saïd Amadis known as Client Lisa
  • Catherine Hiegel known as La mère de Pierre
  • Jil Milan known as Homme S.A.
  • Asil Raïs known as Quayim
  • Anatole Taubman known as Daniel
  • Bertrand Combe known as Directeur de la recherche
  • Bertrand Liebert known as Directeur des opérations
  • Gérard Lecaillon known as Directeur du renseignement
  • Emmanuel Vieilly known as Homme C.E.M.P.
  • Jérôme Bertin known as Conseille Premier Ministre
  • Reda Samoudi known as Professeur Langues Orientales
  • Serge Biavan known as Directeur commercial groupe Mayer
  • Eric Dénécé known as Chimiste
  • Antoine Sfeir known as Islamologue
  • Malek Chebel known as Analyste
  • Anne Giudicelli known as Linguiste
  • Stéphanie Berthomet known as Vétérinaire
  • William Cagnard known as Acheteur flic
  • Warren Zavatta known as Détenu
  • Paco Boublard known as Beur
  • Patrick Guérineau known as Homme DGSE aéroport
  • Benjamin Penemaria known as Skin (as Benjamin Penamaria)
  • Thierry Angelvi known as Maton Aziz (as Thierry Angelvy)
  • Jérémy Bardeau known as Cadet 1
  • Joffrey Platel known as Cadet 2
  • Didier Nobletz known as Maton
  • Mohamed Oubajjit known as Imam prison
  • Jean-David Stepler known as Patrick
  • Charley Fouquet known as Blonde
  • David Kruger known as Interrogateur DGSE
  • Jean-Pierre Loustau known as Patron service d'action
  • Mahmoud Said known as Ambassadeur jordanien
  • Célia Levadoux known as Amie de Jérémy
  • Nasri Sayegh known as Islamiste
  • Driss Roukhe known as Natrif (as Driss Roukh)
  • Mohammed Taleb known as Cheuffeur voiture (as Mohamed Taleb)
  • Karim Doukkali known as Ami ex-client Lisa
  • Abdelghafar Essalfi known as Sommelier (as Abdel Ghaffer Essalfi)
  • Lahcen Alhagouchi known as Moudjahidin passeur
  • Abdallah Fikiri known as Chauffeur Al Barad
  • France Karaguinsky known as Hôtesse
  • Bruno Flender known as Responsable PC sécurité métro
  • Joëlle Bobbio known as Passante
  • Elef Zack known as Policier métro (as Elef Zach)
  • Michaël Vander-Meiren known as Maton Fleury-Mérogis
  • Amine Lamriki known as Moudjahidin grotte
  • Thierry Bois known as Chef maton
  • Mustapha Bazadu known as Moudjahidin grotte
  • Ruben Alves known as La nouvelle recrue
  • David Daouda known as Agent Sécurité métro
  • Big John known as Inmate

..{tab=Supporting Department}Makeup Department:

  • Frédérique Ney known as key makeup artist
  • Myriam Roger known as key hair stylist

Art Department:

  • Candice Dupré known as assistant art director
  • Eric Gandois known as tattoo designer
  • Hind Ghazali known as set dresser
  • Mathieu Jurgenson known as digital artist
  • Arnaud Putman known as property master
  • François Willenz known as digital artist
  • Halima Zniber known as assistant art director


Production Companies:

  • UGC YM
  • France 3 Cinéma (co-production)
  • France 2 Cinéma (co-production)
  • Sofica UGC 1 (in association with)
  • Sofica Soficinéma 4 (in association with)
  • Canal+ (participation)
  • TPS Star (participation)
  • Procirep (support)
  • Angoa-Agicoa (support)
  • Invictus Films (participation)


  • UGC Distribution (2008) (France) (theatrical)
  • Capelight Pictures (2010) (Germany) (DVD)
  • Mongrel Media (2009) (Canada) (DVD)
  • Prime Pictures (2009) (Brazil) (DVD)

..{tab=Other Stuff}

Special Effects:

  • Duboi (digital visual effects)

Visual Effects by:

  • Jerome Auliac known as digital compositor
  • Alain Bignet known as digital compositor
  • Cyrille Bonjean known as compositing supervisor
  • Lucie Bories known as digital compositor
  • Eric Carme known as visual effects artist
  • Natalène Darfeuille known as visual effects production assistant
  • Christophe Duflaut known as digital compositor: Duran Duboi
  • Thomas Duval known as visual effects supervisor
  • Marion Frelat known as visual effects coordinator
  • David Gourmaud known as visual effects editor
  • Aurélien Grand known as retouch and restoration
  • Thibaut Granier known as digital compositor
  • Nicolas Kermel known as digital artist
  • Pacini Kevin known as visual effects editor
  • Nicolas Lacroix known as visual effects coordinator
  • Julien Lambert known as 3D supervisor
  • Nicolas Leblanc known as digital artist
  • Elodie Ly Tri known as retouch and restoration
  • Benjamin Pelletreau known as digital compositor
  • Cecile Peltier known as digital compositor
  • Carlos Perona known as digital artist
  • Nicolas Rigaud known as digital compositor
  • Florian Senand known as digital compositor
  • Niranjan Siva known as digital compositor
  • Rossi Sébastien known as visual effects
  • Annabelle Troukens known as visual effects producer

Release Date:

  • USA 8 November 2008 (American Film Market)
  • France 11 November 2008 (Sarlat Film Festival)
  • France 10 December 2008
  • Belgium 17 December 2008
  • Germany 5 February 2009 (European Film Market)
  • Japan 14 March 2009 (Festival du Film Français au Japon)
  • Denmark 17 April 2009 (CPHPIX Festival)
  • France 10 June 2009 (DVD premiere)
  • Turkey 24 July 2009
  • Canada 8 September 2009 (DVD premiere)
  • Sweden 9 September 2009 (DVD premiere)
  • Mexico 11 September 2009 (Tour de cine francés en méxico)
  • Finland 23 September 2009 (DVD premiere)
  • Mexico 25 November 2011


Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database

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