Grenier (Ventura) is a French spy living in Zurich, Switzerland. A guy who has an appointment with him is murdered in a tram. Then he is contacted by Chance (Piccoli), a guy who pretends to work for the French secret services, but Grenier is doubtful.
Espion, lève-toi provides examples of:
- Creator Cameo: The director, Yves Boisset, plays the role of a henchman of Richard.
- Conspicuously Public Assassination: Alfred Zimmer is murdered in a tram. Later, Kieffer is murdered during his official visit to the university.
- Deep Cover Agent: Grenier has lived a normal life in Zurich for eight years. His partner, Anna, does not even know that he is a spy.
- Dirty Communists: Subverted. Chance is a Soviet spy, he tries to manipulate Grenier and he plays dirty tricks, but the French secret services are responsible for Anna's murder.
- Disposable Woman: When he hears that Anna was murdered, Grenier decides to take revenge.
- Downer Ending: Anna is murdered, then Grenier.
- The Film of the Book: The film is adapted from Chance Awakening, a 1977 book by George Markstein.
- The Hero Dies: Grenier gets killed by Richard and his henchmen in the end.
- Meaningful Name: Jean-Paul Chance (the title of the original book was even Chance Awakening).
- Overt Rendezvous: Grenier meets Chance first during a concert in a park , then during a sport event.
- Plot-Triggering Death: Grenier knows that something is happening when he hears that Alfred Zimmer, a guy he had to meet, was murdered by a left-wing terrorist group.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: When he hears that Anna was murdered, Grenier decides to take revenge. He kills Ramos, then Chance. Unfortunately, he does not kill Richar, the guy who is responsible for Anna's murder.
- Secret Test: After his first meeting with Chance, Grenier is doubtful about his true intentions. Therefore, he decides to contact his hierarchy through an emergency procedure. So he attends a sport event where he is supposed to meet another French spy, but Chance shows up and tells him that the ambiguous proposal he made during their first meeting was a test and that he has passed it.
- Shoutout: Grenier knows that he is assigned a new mission because he receives by mail a copy of Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas.
- Spy Fiction: Bleach and Ammonia Flavored. The French government has no qualms about murdering its own spies and innocent bystanders.
- Spy Speak:
- Grenier's message in the small adds makes reference to Alexandre Dumas's books, but it is actually an emergency message to his hierarchy.
- When he goes to Munich to meet Meyer, another French spy, Grenier let him know who he is by asking for a rare book.