It’s a courageous director who will take on the complexity of one of France’s biggest financial and political scandals and attempt to turn it into a compelling drama. Vincent Garenq has aleady proved he is the man for the job with his award winning Présumé Coupablewhich examined one of the country’s most notorious miscarriages of justice, the Outreau case. He again turns to the front pages of the newspapers for l’Enquête, a fascinating story of false bank accounts and alleged international money laundering which pitted two of France’s best-known politicians against each other. Given the dizzying intricacy of the financial transactions and the political intrigue involved in the Clearstream scandal, l’Enquête sticks admirably to the details of the affair. But by doing so, it lacks the tension and pace of a good political thriller.
The details of the scandal made headlines in France for over four-years. It all started in 2004 when a judge received a list that contained the names of people believed to hold secret bank accounts at the Clearstream financial clearing-house in Luxembourg. The bank accounts were allegedly linked to kickbacks on the sale of French frigates to Taiwan in 1991. One of the names on the list was Nicolas Sarkozy who was at the time finance minister under President Jacques Chirac. The list of names was later ruled to be false and two former executives at the European Aeronautic Defence and Space company, EADS, were arrested and sent to prison for their role in compiling the list. A new case was then opened into false accusations with Sarkozy as one of the plaintiffs Prosecutors claimed the then Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin had failed to stop the conspiracy in order to unseat Sarkozy, his political rival. Both politicians were battling to replace Jacques Chirac as president.
L’Enquête follows investigative journalist Denis Robert (Gilles Lellouche) as he gradually uncovers the depth of the scandal, baptised the Clearstream Affair. He joins forces with anti-corruption judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke (Charles Berling) and together the two take on the power of the international banking communauty. This is a modern day tale of David versus Goliath except here the little guy is no match for the might of big corporations and Robert is forced to the edge of personal and financial ruin. And what could be an uplifting tale of how justice will prevail ends up as a dire warning to anyone foolish enough to take on The System.
Lellouche’s Robert is a highly-driven, ambitious man who is prepared to dig deep to discover the truth. A job which involves a lot time in his car talking on his mobile phone or holding clandestine meetings in multi-storey carparks. All of which is needed for an understanding of the plot, but it makes for tedious, uninspired viewing. Add in the number of lookalike, middle-aged men in suits who work at the various banks, government departments and the French judicial system and L’Enquête becomes an exercise in ‘don’t blink or you’ll miss it’ concentration. Garenq’s background as a documentary-film maker is clearly on full view here to the detriment of a more satisfying, less structured film.