When the curtain (read: mountain) is pulled in the opening frame of Eric Rochant’s Möbius, it presents Monte Carlo, squeaky-clean Disneyland of the rich, and its Monaco-is-the-new-Switzerland ethos with the sort of sonic bluster (not to mention ostentatious title font) typically reserved for Bible epics and your average Christopher Nolan head-twizzler. But the agreeably dull, genre-straddling storyline, which splits its time evenly between the high-stakes spynanigans that link Russia’s RLF with our C.I.A. and Jean Dujardin and Cécile de France’s panties-creaming hanky-panky, might have been better served with a little more “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” than heaven-sent Gregorian chant on the soundtrack.
Rochant, whose casting of Wendell Pierce in a minor role as a C.I.A. operative points to his affinity for The Wire, doesn’t exactly bring David Simon-esque levels of critical inquiry to this not-so-tall tale. And the film, less civics lesson than chamber drama, is the better for it, unpretentiously maintaining its sense of intrigue cooly on the surface. When de France, customarily nuanced as a French-American financial whiz, Alice Redmond, who’s ostracized from the U.S. for bringing Lehman Brothers down, is asked by Ivan Rostovsky (Tim Roth), the business magnate and client she’s asked to target, if she’s wearing a wire (she is), we’re spared the close-up on any beads of sweat collecting on her brow. Even when the story’s espionage takes on current-ish geopolitical dimensions, bringing the whole Iran situation into mix, Rochant avoids the pompously eassayistic over-complication that typifies globetrotting political porn such as Syriana.
Möbius makes plenty of either half-hearted or go-nowhere attempts at characterization (Alice’s sickly, American father exists for no other reason than for his fortunate Skype connection), and it intermittently reveals an exceedingly heavy hand, even if it has a sense of humor about it all, except, that is, for the unfortunate moment when some goon condescendingly explains for Dujardin’s Russian intelligence officer, Moïse, the meaning of the möbius strip. Earlier, de France and Dujardin meet sexy at club Destiny, where Mirrors’ “Hide and Seek” blares as a male and female dancer put on an Eyes Wide Shut-inspired striptease. Alice is oblivious to Moïse’s true identity (he pretends to be a writer), but is put off enough by all the hiding, seeking, eyes-wide-shutting playing out inside the club to wryly suggest a quick excursion to club Apocalypse, where the club’s more Pitchfork-friendly tunes guide them toward her bedroom suite.
Alice and Moïse will boink twice during the film’s running time—nothing too hot, but Rochant’s weird and lengthy fixation on de France reaching orgasm twice in one session allows Möbius to unexpectedly transform from a low-stakes Notorious to a high-end Red Shoe Diaries. There’s a handsomely staged, thrillingly disguised phone conversation between the pair late in the film that’s welcome for suggesting that the would-be couple’s chemistry is rife with more than just sexual possibilities. But it’s ultimately de France’s heroically performed “O” face that most cogently reveals Möbius not as a study of the non-orientable properties of modern geopolitics, but as a tastefully steamy articulation of Dujardin’s cock being the perfect vessel by which the ostensibly Euclidean space of the female G spot is most successfully breached.