“Liaison,” the new AppleTV+ series about cyberterrorism, illuminates contemporary European rivalries and divisions as France and England employ subversive agents to woo a Syrian refugee, a super hacker who can secure their greatest secrets.
It’s a complicated, furiously-paced, six-episode thriller with Vincent Cassel as a French-employed mercenary re-igniting romantic flames with his British rival Eva Green.
“It’s really about this love story that hasn’t been resolved,” said Cassel, 56. “Of course, you have cyber attacks, an international spy story. Action! Thriller, whatever.
“But for me the real arc of the movie is that impossible and passionate love story between Eva Green’s character and mine. It’s really about these two people who have incredible chemistry but they just can’t consume it.”
If there’s real electricity alongside their troubled history, it’s a tribute to Cassel’s producing clout in casting Green.
“I had the possibility to get out at any point until we had the whole cast and director chosen. Knowing the magnitude of the project, the money involved and everything, I didn’t want to end up a victim of choices that I wasn’t agreeing with. When Eva came aboard, it was my greenlight to be 100% involved.”
Known for his eccentric, off-beat, even self-destructive characters (“Eastern Promises,” “Irreversible”), Cassel went deep for his mercenary.
“I wanted to install that French antihero who’s far from the stereotypes we’re used to through American cinema or characters like James Bond. I wanted something a little more gritty, more believable.
“This guy is treated like a stray dog in the whole series. But the reality is that at the end, you can count on him. It’s not about showing off or being cool. He is not that at all. He’s just reliable in what he does.”
He met real mercenaries. “People that worked in secret services for years — and then were abandoned by whatever government they were working with. From there, they became a bit more cynical and decided to use their talents for anybody that would pay.
“You see the loneliness and the normality of these people living a crazy life in terrible situations. People who just had five years in jail in some war-torn country. Because it was part of the job. Because they needed to be infiltrated in whatever situation to get information. People who worked for the British, American, Israeli, French governments. The Vatican!
“He was telling me things he had to do. How to cope with certain situations, how many people had to die. When suddenly it became unbearable for him and when he wanted to pull out, he couldn’t.
“It’s really,” he added, “interesting.”
“Liaison” premieres on AppleTV+ Feb. 24
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