An Officer and a Spy (film)

An Officer and a Spy (French: J'accuse) is a 2019 French-Italian historical drama film directed by Roman Polanski about the Dreyfus affair, with a screenplay by Polanski and Robert Harris based on Harris' 2013 novel of the same name. It had its premiere at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on 30 August 2019, winning the Grand Jury Prize.

An Officer and a Spy
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoman Polanski
Produced byAlain Goldman
Screenplay by
Based onAn Officer and a Spy
by Robert Harris
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyPawel Edelman
Edited byHervé de Luze
Distributed by
Release date
  • 30 August 2019 (2019-08-30) (Venice)
  • 13 November 2019 (2019-11-13) (France)
  • 21 November 2019 (2019-11-21) (Italy)
Running time
132 minutes[1]
  • France
  • Italy
Budget$24 million[2]
Box office$11 million[3]


The film centers on the notorious 19th century Dreyfus affair. Jean Dujardin stars as French officer Georges Picquart. After being appointed chief of the army's intelligence section (Deuxième Bureau, service de renseignement militaire) in 1895, he discovers that doctored evidence was used to convict Alfred Dreyfus, one of the few Jewish members of the French Army's general staff, of passing military secrets to the German Empire. Picquart risks his career and his life, struggling for a decade to expose the truth and liberate the wrongly convicted Dreyfus from the dreaded Devil's Island prison.



Robert Harris was inspired to write the novel by his friend Polanski's longtime interest in the Dreyfus affair.[4] Harris followed up the novel with a script of the same story, titled D, with Polanski announced as director in 2012.[5]

This film marks the third time Harris has worked with Polanski.[6] Harris previously co-wrote The Ghost Writer with Polanski, which was also an adaptation of one of Harris's novels, The Ghost. The two first teamed in 2007 on a film adaptation of Harris's novel Pompeii,[7] which was cancelled just before filming due to a looming actors' strike.[8][9]

Although set in Paris, An Officer and a Spy was first scheduled to shoot in Warsaw in 2014, for economic reasons.[10] However, production was postponed after Polanski moved to Poland for filming and the U.S. Government filed extradition papers. The Polish government eventually rejected them, by which time new French film tax credits had been introduced, allowing the film to shoot on location in Paris.

The film was budgeted at 60m and was next set to start production in July 2016,[11] however its production was postponed again, while Polanski waited on the availability of a star, whose name was not announced.[12]

Filming began on 26 November 2018[13] and was completed on 28 April 2019.[14] The film was produced by Alain Goldman's Légende Films and distributed by Gaumont.[15]


The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on 30 August 2019.[16][17] At the Venice Film Festival, the film won the Grand Jury Prize.[18] During the Venice Film Festival the head of the jury Lucrecia Martel stated: "I don’t separate the man from the art. I think that important aspects of the work emerges in the man,” Martel said. “A man who commits a crime of this size who is then condemned, and the victim considers herself satisfied with the compensation is difficult for me judge… It is difficult to define what is the right approach we have to take with people who have committed certain acts and were judged for them. I think these questions are part of the debate in our times."[19] Martel also stated she would not attend a gala dinner in support of the film.[20] Polanski's producers threatened to pull the film from the festival lineup.[21][22] Martel later clarified her comments stating: "According to some reports after today’s press conference, I believe my words were deeply misunderstood. Since I don’t separate the work from the author and I have recognized a lot of humanity in Polanski’s previous films, I am not opposed to the presence of the film in competition. I don’t have any prejudice towards it and of course I will watch the film like any other in the competition. If I had any prejudice, I would have resigned my duty as the president of the jury.”[23] Prior to, Alberto Barbera the festival director of Venice defended the film being in the lineup stating: "We are here to see works of art, not to judge the person behind it. I hope we can just discuss about the quality of the film and not about Polanski and the case with L.A. County."[24]

It was released in France on 13 November 2019.[25] and in Italy on 21 November 2019.[26]

U.S. distribution companies rejected invitations to a buyers presentation during the Cannes Film Festival.[27][28] However, Howard Cohen of Roadside Attractions stated: "I think we would consider it, though I’m not even sure how I personally feel. People have been releasing his films for years. Now, we are looking at it through a different lens, with good reason. We have to search our souls if it’s the right thing to do. What does it mean to release this movie? I don’t think that’s a settled question even in my mind.”[29]


An Officer and a Spy holds 63% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 19 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.27/10.[30] On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 56 out of 100, based on 9 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[31] The film received a standing ovation during its premiere in Venice,[32][33][34] but has overall received mixed reviews from critics. David Sexton from the Evening Standard gave to the film a rating of 4 on 5, declaring that: "It's an absolute masterclass in how to make an historical film".[35]

The film has received backlash due to the plot of the film relating to Polanski's sexual abuse case and further accusations of harassment and assault.[36][37][38]


  1. "Biennale Cinema 2019 | J'accuse". La Biennale di Venezia. 19 July 2019.
  2. Keslassy, Elsa; Keslassy, Elsa (18 November 2019). "'An Officer and a Spy' Leads French Box Office Despite Roman Polanski Controversy".
  3. "An Officer and Spy". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  4. Anthony, Andrew (29 September 2013). "Robert Harris: 'Whenever a crowd is running one way, I run the other'". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  5. "Roman Polanski to Direct Dreyfus Affair Drama 'D'". Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  6. McClintock, Pamela (9 May 2012). "Roman Polanski to Direct Dreyfus Affair Drama 'D'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 13 May 2012.
  7. Variety 1 February 2007: Polanski propels 'Pompeii'. Retrieved 30 January 2012
  8. Rotten Tomatoes 12 September 2007: Roman Polanski Flees Pompeii. Retrieved 30 January 2012
  9. Mr. Beaks (5 March 2010). "Mr. Beaks Interrogates The Ghost Writer Novelist-Screenwriter Robert Harris!". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  10. "Polanski wants to make next movie in Poland". Archived from the original on 23 November 2016.
  11. "Polanski tournera " Dreyfus " en France". 24 October 2016.
  12. "Polański delays filming of spy thriller". Archived from the original on 5 April 2016.
  13. "Jean Dujardin on Instagram: "Au boulot! 1er jour de tournage de #jaccuse de #romanpolanski @robertharrishome #colonel #mariegeorgespicquart"". Instagram.
  14. "Jean Dujardin on Instagram: "Fin de tournage! Merci à toute l'équipe. 🙏❤️ #jaccuse de #romanpolanski photo @guyferrandis"". Instagram.
  15. AlloCine. "J'accuse : Jean Dujardin chez Roman Polanski pour son film sur l'affaire Dreyfus".
  16. Vivarelli, Nick (25 July 2019). "Joker, Ad Astra, The Laundromat, Marriage Story to Compete in Venice". Variety. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  17. "Venezia 76 Competition". 25 July 2019. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  18. Anderson, Ariston. "Venice: Todd Phillips' 'Joker' Wins Golden Lion, Roman Polanski Wins Silver Lion". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  19. Barfield, Charles (28 August 2019). "Venice Jury President Lucrecia Martel Has Complicated Feelings About Polanski's Inclusion: "I Don't Separate The Man From The Art"". The Playlist. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  20. Anderson, Ariston (28 August 2019). "Venice Jury Head Lucrecia Martel Says Polanski Has Right to Be in Lineup but She Won't Celebrate Him". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  21. Anderson, Ariston; Roxborough, Scott (29 August 2019). "Venice: Roman Polanski's Producers Threaten to Pull Film After Jury President's Comments". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  22. Vivarelli, Nick (29 August 2019). "Venice: Producer Considered Withdrawing Roman Polanski's Film After Jury President's Remarks". Variety. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  23. Tartaglione, Nancy (28 August 2019). "Venice Jury President Lucrecia Martel Clarifies Comments On Roman Polanski: No Prejudice Against Competition Film 'An Officer And A Spy'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  24. Anderson, Ariston (25 July 2019). "Venice Chief Alberto Barbera Defends Lack of Women Directors, Roman Polanski Inclusion in Lineup". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  25. "J'Accuse". Gaumont Film Company. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  26. "L'ufficiale e la spia". 01 Distribution. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  27. Siegel, Tatiana; Roxborough, Scott (20 May 2019). "Cannes: Roman Polanski Film Gets Secret Presentation for Buyers". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  28. Barfield, Charles (24 May 2019). "Woody Allen & Roman Polanski Are Both Getting The Cold Shoulder From US Distributors For Their New Films". The Playlist. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  29. Sperling, Nicole (24 May 2019). ""Who Would Want to Spend Their Time on That?": Hollywood Weighs New Releases from Woody Allen and Roman Polanski". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  30. "An Officer and a Spy (J'accuse) (2019)". Retrieved 21 November 2019 via
  31. "An Officer and a Spy Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  32. Ulivi, Stefania (30 August 2019). "Venezia 2019, Roman Polanski: «Io come Dreyfus». Applausi al suo film «J'accuse»". Corriere della Sera.
  33. "Venezia 76, applausi a 'J'accuse' di Polanski. Dujardin: "Un grande film diretto da un regista-sciamano"".
  34. Satta, di Gloria (31 August 2019). "Festival del cinema, Polanski oltre le polemiche elogi e applausi per il suo J'accuse". ilmessaggeroit.
  35. "An Officer and a Spy: Masterclass in how to make an historical film". Evening Standard. 30 August 2019.
  36. Pulver, Andrew (1 October 2018). "Social media outrage over Roman Polanski film J'Accuse". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  37. Grisar, PJ (6 September 2019). "Does Roman Polanski's New Film Make The Dreyfus Affair About Him?". The Forward. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  38. Sugarman, Daniel (5 September 2019). "Why we should not be watching Roman Polanski's film on the Dreyfus Affair". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
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