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Film / Les Passeurs

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Les Passeurs (which more or less literally translates as The Smugglers) is a 2004 French Made-for-TV movie directed by Didier Grousset and written by Gilles Perrault. The cast includes Guy Marchand, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Toinette Laquière and Cédric Chevalme.

During World War II, Bernard Anthonioz (Marchand) and Maurice Nicod (Donnadieu), two French mountain men living in the Jura massif, specialize in smuggling people and goods to neutral Switzerland. The two men hate each other with a passion out of an old feud and have opposite philosophies. On one side, Anthonioz smuggles people who are threatened by either the German occupiers or the Milice of Vichy France (resistants, Jews, communists, homosexuals, downed Allied pilots and the like). On the other side, Nicod smuggles goods and only goods, usually stuff that his clients don't want the Germans or the Milice to get their hands on, such as works of art or gold bars.

Things get complicated when Séverine, Bernard's daughter, and François, Maurice's son, fall in love, and when the smuggling networks attract the attention of both the Milice and German occupiers.

Les Passeurs provides examples of:

  • All Germans Are Nazis: Averted by Bernard Anthonioz, who refuses to consider all Germans as Nazis.
  • Artificial Limbs: The German officer's feet froze on the Eastern front, and he had to be amputated from both of them. He got artificial (presumably wooden) replacements for them.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Maurice Nicod created a bulletproof vest of sorts for himself with a leather waistcoat covered with plates of lead. It's not entirely impervious to bullets, but it provides him decent protection in his smuggling runs.
  • Les Collaborateurs: A unit of the armed branch of the Milice (Vichy France's State Sec), the Franc-Garde, comes to the village as they know there are smugglers in the area.
  • Conflict Killer: Séverine and François end up pinned down by a German squad. Bernard and Maurice put a stop to their neverending family feud the moment they figure this out, and team up to save their children.
  • Feuding Families: The feud between the Anthonioz and Nicod families is said to date back to several generations. Both Bernard and Maurice hate each other and accuse each other of being a hindrance while they do their respective smuggling job, since they both use similar paths to get people/goods across the border in the mountains. It also doesn't help that Maurice's late wife cheated on him with Bernard.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Bernard and Maurice team up to save their children at the cost of their lives and attack the German squad with dynamite sticks, knowing they won't come out of it alive. Maurice has his homemade Bulletproof Vest on and tanks a few Mauser rifle shots before succumbing, but not before taking a few soldiers out with the dynamite. Bernard gets shot in the chest and blows himself up. This is enough for François and Séverine to escape.
  • Home Field Advantage: To get rid of the Milice unit, Maurice has them go into the mountains during the winter, pretending to lead them to a resistance smuggler. He perfectly knows the field, and this being the coldest area of France in the winter, he puts his warmest clothes on beforehand. The Milice men are stupid enough to follow him and they don't wear warm clothes. The leader dies in a small avalanche, the others get lost and die frozen.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Zig-zagged. The most blatant instance of this is that Germans don't seem to be able to hit François and Séverine. They don't always miss otherwise.
  • Missing Mom: François has always believed his mother died when giving birth. She did... but not when giving birth to him. She died when giving birth to an illegitimate child from Bernard Anthonioz. Which is another reason the feud between the two families keeps going.
  • Mistaken for Spies: Two men who are revealed to be Germans present themselves to Bernard to be smuggled. Bernard's smuggling network colleagues suspect them of being Gestapo spies at first, but it turns out they are homosexual lovers who deserted the army for fear of being shot if their relation was exposed.
  • Moe Greene Special: François shoots a dart right in Guy's left eye with his dart rifle to save Séverine. For added Eye Scream, Séverine pulls the dart out (and the eye with it) and shoots in the orbit with Guy's gun to cover up his death.
  • The Mole: Guy, who pretended to be a Free French Special Operations Executive agent, is revealed to be an agent working for the Germans who infiltrated the network of Anthonioz.
  • Obfuscating Disability: François feigns being chronically sick with tuberculosis to be deemed unfit for the Service du Travail Obligatoire (STO) and keeps sharpening his shooting skills in the hope of joining biathlon competitions.
  • One Bullet Left: François has only five bullets for his carbine when he and Séverine decide to flee to Switzerland. That's not enough against the German Gebirgsjäger squad going after them. After shooting four Germans dead, he has only one bullet left.
  • Opportunistic Bastards: Roulet Delmas and Ivan Brontov. The gold and works of art Maurice smuggles in Switzerland for them is revealed to have been looted by them in the empty homes of deported Jews. Then Maurice steals them everything and replaces it with junk and potatoes in the back packs before leading them to a German outpost before the Swiss border while they believed they were already in Switzerland.
  • La Résistance: Sometimes, resistants come at Bernard to be smuggled in Switzerland. Bernard's own actions are motivated by his hatred of Nazi ideology, as he points out.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: The two homosexual German soldiers who want to escape to Switzerland don't speak a single word in French, so they try passing as mutes. Unfortunately, this draws the attention of Milice men, which prompts one of the two to pull a Bavarian Fire Drill with a loud German officer impression. The Milice men leave them alone, not wanting trouble with German authorities, but this causes Anthonioz's network to suspect them. Séverine rightfully guesses that the Gestapo would never send agents who don't speak French to infiltrate them.
  • Run for the Border: Séverine and François make a run to reach the Swiss border in the climax.
  • Shaking Her Hair Loose: Séverine shakes her hair loose before making love with François.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Anthonioz wants to help threatened people escape nazi/fascist terror, while Nicod only wants to make profit by helping the black markets.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Séverine and François end up falling in love, while their fathers are bitter enemies.
  • Suicide by Cop: The woman who came from Paris to bring the news of the fall of Murat's network is so desperate after witnessing said fall that she goes straight into a German patrol's zone, and ends up shot by them without even trying to flee. The soldiers' rifles miss her, but not their machine gun.
  • Weather of War: Maurice gets rid of the Milice unit without even needing a weapon, simply using his knowledge of the mountains and winter to outsmart them and lead them to their doom.
  • Worthy Opponent: The German officer admires François' skills with a gun, and recognizes him instantly from a distance due to this during the final battle, as he has just shot four soldiers with four bullets.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Due to language similarities, Abraham Liederman uses Yiddish to translate what the two Germans who came at Anthonioz have to say, which is how they are found out to be homosexuals who want to escape certain death.