Can the world ever have too many spy thrillers? For fans of the genre and newcomers alike comes a truly international offering in Mirage, a co-production between French, German and Canadian companies. The international flavour continues into its cast of many cultures.
The six-part series opens with our leads, Frenchwoman Claire (Marie-Josée Croze) and British Gabriel (Clive Standen), in love and on Christmas holiday in Thailand. One night, while Claire sleeps, Gabriel steps outside for a smoke. The next morning, she wakes to the deafening roar of the tsunami outside, and an empty space in the bed beside her. Gabriel is nowhere to be seen.
Cut to fifteen years later, and Claire and teenage son (by Gabriel) Zack, arrive in Abu Dhabi to reunite with her new husband, Lukas. Claire, a cyber security engineer, has taken a position with a new high-rise construction there.
Keen to turn over a new leaf, Claire has plenty of past to leave behind. Not only the wrenching separation from Gabriel, presumed dead in the tsunami, but a deadly accident at a plant she was working for years ago; she was the fall guy, her backup system was blamed for the disaster.
But the past, that old chestnut, has a way of returning unexpectedly, and with force. One night, when out with Lukas, Claire thinks she sees Gabriel in the restaurant. Following his trail, she’s sure it’s him. But hasn’t he been dead all this time?
What unfolds is a superbly paced story, introducing us to various players in the expat community, some bored and behaving badly, many who left their scruples at the border, if they had any to begin with. Claire is the innocent in this world; it’s all new to her, and she’s suddenly thrust into an impassioned determination to track down Gabriel and find out the truth of why he’s back.
Shot in Morocco and Abu Dhabi, and set primarily in the latter city, this series opens a world still highly exotic and unfamiliar to viewers. It also takes us to areas not on the postcards, like the cheerful and bustling Syrian quarter as shown through the eyes of Bassem, the driver Claire enlists to help her on her quest.
The series is visually stunning, director of photography Ronald Plante (Sharp Objects) using only natural light to shoot. Creators and writers Benedicte Charles, Franck Philippon and Olivier Pouponneau present a high-stakes world, but allow us time to assess the characters’ trustworthiness. Claire’s loving and supportive family life is a soft backdrop to a hard scenario unfolding in the heat of the desert.
Standen is especially captivating as Gabriel, and Croze brings her usual aplomb and natural style. Standouts from the ensemble cast include Hannes Jaenicke as Lukas, Thomas Chomel as Zack and Chadi Alhelou as Bassem. Fans of The Bureau will like this one, and if you’re new to the spy thriller game, press play on Mirage.
Six-part series Mirage premieres at SBS On Demand on Thursday 6 August.