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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'Liaison' Season 1 Review: International Crisis In Eva Green & Vincent Cassel Apple TV+ Spy Thriller

Eva Green touching Vincent Cassel's head with her hands
Apple TV+

''Stop at nothing to save everything''. Sometimes a tagline isn't just a warning sign but it yells that warning very loudly while banging a drum, removing your fingernails, embezzling your money and holding your head underwater too. First season of spy thriller series Liaison (same title used in France), headlined by showrunner Virginie Brac and director Stephen Hopkins, uses its genre's starting points and tries to create riveting entertainment out of them. Gabriel (Vincent Cassel) is a spy-for-hire working for French individuals in a cat-and-mouse game of preventing terrorism, something that is revealed to involve highly influential political figures as well. This situation also happens to call for the expertise of British government official Alison (Eva Green), Gabriel's former associate and romantic partner.

Parts of the first episode show some of the potential that the filmmakers were reaching for as it features slick jumps from one country to another in order to establish important locations and characters, also then culminating in fairly expansive story beats for a genre that usually likes to stay grounded, mainly for budgetary reasons. That demands well-crafted visual effects to set the stakes which makes you wish that the ambition wouldn't be limited to just a few sequences. When the second and third episodes roll around, it becomes quite clear that Liaison has severe issues with identity which sucks the air out of the room occupied by its cast and crew.

First to suffer are actors, Cassel and Green's characters entangled in a romance with zero chemistry, almost as if both actors had to be paid hundreds of thousands of euros or pounds to show up. Green's range is mostly just different types of confused staring while Cassel's turn as an ''action star'' is laughably awful at its best. Supporting players like Daniel Francis (Albert), Lyna Dubarry (Myriam) and Aziz Dyab (Samir) don't get to make much difference as their characters are barely even real or alive, it seems. Hopkins' direction reflects this as characters' actions never register as realistic or moving, illustrated best in Gabriel and Alison's gazes and lapses that feel like Hopkins moving them as chess pieces on a board.

With its last three episodes, you can just lose all hope for the series as the craft also gets atrociously bad as the story goes along. Brac's dialogue and plot developments become deadly trite—even subtitles share this identity crisis as they use American spelling for purely English and French material—DoP Peter Levy's photography goes on autopilot and makeup and hair work (designed by Jill Sweeney) is either excessive for Green or simply full of wrong choices for flashbacks that should have had recasting instead.

Finally this shapeless blob of a show has one more rescue mission with music and by then no one is actually running it, if anyone ever truly was. Massive Attack's 'Teardrop' is one of the motifs used in addition to a specific violin-heavy cue by composer Walter Mair; both unbearably boring as they underline a dispassionate connection between Alison and Gabriel, and both making sure that it's worth it to not return to watch a second season because you don't then have to hear them again.

Smileys: VFX artists tried their best

Frowneys: Directing, acting, writing, soundtrack, originality

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