What starts as a kind of game ends as a kind of war for the protagonist of this offbeat French thriller.
Recently downsized management consultant Jérôme Carceville is definitely down on his luck when he receives the e-mail that changes his life. “Your profile may well be of interest to us,” it reads; “Would you get in touch?” It’s signed by De Wavre International, a firm he knows nothing of but which is later described to him as “the ultimate executive search engine.” So Jérôme gets in touch. Few are the options, after all, for a jobless husband and father of two whose phone has definitely not been ringing off the hook with offers. Having passed a series of preliminary tests—none of them difficult—Jérôme finds himself packed off to a remote Alpine hotel in company with 14 others. Fifteen desperate job-seekers, then, are told that lofty positions in glossy multinational firms will be offered the two or three who perform best over the next few days—at the expense of their colleagues. Three teams, five in each, are tasked with marketing a product of their own devising. Boss of one team, Jérôme launches his campaign circumspectly, early decisions informed by legitimate business strategies. But the competition is ferocious, particularly from a certain Emmanuel Charriac, lawyer and near sociopath: “brutal, underhanded, merciless, icy.” As measure meets countermeasure, as tactics succeed or ricochet, as the two go at each other with ever-increasing intensity, it becomes less a game and more a matter of personal primacy. And, in the end, Jérôme learns—bitterly, bloodily, and quite literally—that “head hunter” can have a deadly subtext.
Watching the game play out is only intermittently interesting. As it turns out, the increasingly dislikable Jérôme proves almost as ethically challenged as his bête noir, making a rooting interest hard to come by.