These women are led by Sophie Marceau, who heads a team of five French members of the UK-led Special Operations Executive taking on a risky mission in Nazi-controlled France. They are tasked with freeing a captured geologist, who has been secretly researching plans for D-Day – and unbeknown to them, this will lead them on to far greater dangers in the heart of Paris.
Marceau's character, and indeed the whole film, is inspired by the heroism of Lise de Baissac, who carried out many missions for the SOE during World War Two. This, combined with the archive photographs that accompany the opening credits, is a reminder that the film is based on more than just a scriptwriter's imagination. From the heart-in-mouth parachute drops into France to some distressing torture scenes, Les femmes de l'ombre is pretty heavy going at times, and this doesn't always sit easily with the drama, glamour and humour that also surfaces – although perhaps it's not meant to.
All in all, it's pretty well done – some of the plotlines may have been largely invented for cinematic value, but my heart was pounding regularly throughout the two hours of the film. Massively depressing and pretty downbeat of course, but a stark reminder of what so many people lived through just 70 years ago.
Les femmes de l'ombre is available on Curzon on Demand for £2