Judge Gordon Sullivan's review is long, but not endless.
Deception has no allies.
The Möbius strip was discovered by mathematician August Ferdinand Möbius in 1858. What's fascinating about a Möbius strip (which you create by taking a length of paper, giving it one twist, and taping the ends together) is that it's a two-dimensional object that has only a single side but it exists in 3D space. What that means is that if you draw your finger along a Möbius strip, you touch both sides of the paper without crossing the edge of the paper (like you would have if you wanted to draw on both sides of the paper if it hadn't been twisted into a Möbius configuration). There are some neat mathematical properties that can be derived from the strip, but most people hear about it because it's a really weird and cool way to talk about infinity. You can go round and round a Möbius strip seemingly going everywhere (i.e., both sides of the paper) while actually going nowhere (you always end up right where you started). It's also a solid metaphor for the game that's played by the so-called "intelligence community." It's no wonder, then that Möbius chose it for a title, but sadly that's one of the few intelligent decisions that this undercooked thriller made.
Russia's intelligence apparatus, the FSB (successor to the KGB), has an operative named Lioubov (Jean Dujardin, The Monuments Men), who's trying to take down an international money laundering ring. The key to that plan is a banker (Cécile De France, High Tension), but Russian magnate Rostovsky (Tim Roth, Lie to Me) is also interested in her.
Two main problems assail Möbius. The first is that it doesn't quite know what it wants to be. On the one hand, it's a high-stakes international thriller, with a multinational cast and a contemporary story about Russian oligarchs and the twenty-first century intelligence community. On the other hand, it's trying to sell a romantic storyline between Dujardin and De France. These two elements work against each other more than they work for each other.
More significantly, though, the film is simply not clearly motivated. International finance isn't the easiest thing to sell on film; witness the moment in the recent The Wolf of Wall Street where DiCaprio stops his monologue about stock fraud to point out that nobody is following him anyway. Without a clear sense of what's driving the laundering at the center of the film, it's hard to get invested in the tension between the various factions vying for control of the cash. The film is also equally unable to make the finance scheme a MacGuffin, that little thing that drives the plot but is ultimately inexplicable or unimportant. Though it was obvious from the first scene that the laundering was driving the plot, it was also never quite clear how it was really supposed to be working, and that makes it hard to get involved in the various machinations.
I'm not one to complain too loudly about the casting of actors as a critical component for believability, but it's difficult to suspend disbelief when two Russians are played by a Frenchman and a Brit, and the American banker is played by a French woman. However, rather than changing their accents, the two male leads try to pass off their speech patterns as narrative conceits: Rostovsky has a British accent because he emigrated to Britain, while Lioubov has Dujardin's famous Frenchness because of his spy training. One of the major problems with the film is not that it cast these actors, but that it offers very little to distract viewers from the fact that the casting doesn't quite work. We don't buy into the world, and so have a difficult time buying into these actors.
In the film's defense, the actors are all game for their roles, accent aside. Dujardin is charming, while De France is cagey but willing to be seduced, and Roth plays the heavy with his usual flair. The film also has at least a couple of scenes that effectively generate suspense and keep the narrative moving forward. In fact, perhaps the greatest frustration with the film is that it works just often enough to make viewers want to keep watching without delivering on the promise that the cast is capable of.
Also, the Möbius (Blu-ray) 2.40:1/1080p transfer is strong. Detail is high throughout (though the photography occasionally appears on the soft side), with close-ups on the actors looking especially good. The beautiful colors found in Monte Carlo exteriors pop appreciably, and black levels stay consistent and deep. The DTS-HD 5.1 track is also excellent; the film's dialogue is clean and clear throughout, with the surrounds get good use during more tense scenes.
Extras start with three featurettes that total about 10 minutes focusing on the film's central couple, the cast, and the Möbius strip. We then get interviews with director Eric Rochant, Roth, Dujardin, and De France that total around 40 minutes. The film's trailer, along with an Ultraviolet digital copy, is also included.
Möbius is a so-so thriller that delivers in fits and starts. The cast is excellent and there's some real chemistry, but it never gels into a compelling thriller. Fans of the actors may want to give it a rental, and Möbius (Blu-ray) makes that easy to recommend.
Not great, but not guilty.
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