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Review: Too grey to hold your attention

INSPIRED by the bravery of her lover, an RAF pilot, a young Scottish woman decides to join the French Resistance. Charlotte Gray, portrayed by Cate Blanchett, receives training and a false identity, and is sent behind enemy lines to the Vichy area of France, controlled by the Nazis, in order to assist the local Resistance movement by sabotaging German operations.
Charlotte Gray risks her life not only during missions, where she delivers coded messages and blows up Nazi trains, but also while searching for her lover, who was shot down over France. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Sebastian Faulks, the film describes a fictional character whose life is changed by her active involvement in fighting the Nazi regime.


BLANCHETT shines in film.
Courtesy of Continental-Film

Charlotte Gray

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, and Rupert Penry-Jones
Directed by: Gillian Armstrong
Running time: 119 min
Rating: 6 out of 10

INSPIRED by the bravery of her lover, an RAF pilot, a young Scottish woman decides to join the French Resistance. Charlotte Gray, portrayed by Cate Blanchett, receives training and a false identity, and is sent behind enemy lines to the Vichy area of France, controlled by the Nazis, in order to assist the local Resistance movement by sabotaging German operations.

Charlotte Gray risks her life not only during missions, where she delivers coded messages and blows up Nazi trains, but also while searching for her lover, who was shot down over France. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Sebastian Faulks, the film describes a fictional character whose life is changed by her active involvement in fighting the Nazi regime.

During the second world war many people were recruited to secretly fight the Nazis by the Special Operation Executive, a secret organisation established by Winston Churchill. Most importantly, these individuals had to speak the language of the country they were going to like a native. Therefore, one of the main disappointments with this film is the fact that after arriving at her destination, a small French village, secret agent Gray continues to speak English.

This very much undermines the authenticity of the film and makes you wonder why they did not hire any French-speaking actors. Considering that it is one of the most expensive British movies ever made, with a budget of $60 million, it probably would not have been asking too much.

Throughout the film, Charlotte develops into a mature person with a sense of responsibility for the lives of her fellow fighters, and comes to the realisation that "war makes us into people we did not know we were". Above all, it is Blanchett's acting skill that convinces you of her devotion to fight for freedom in a foreign country. This makes Charlotte Gray a very personal war movie. Her performance here does not lack the grace or emotion she showed in The Lord of the Rings as Galadriel or in Lasse Hallström's The Shipping News.

But, in contrast to the first part of the film, when Charlotte is in training and learns how to live a double life, the second half is very melodramatic. Because she thinks her former lover is dead, she falls for Julien (played by Billy Crudup), the leader of the Resistance group that is involved in the rescue and hiding of two Jewish boys whose parents were deported from the village.

Director Gillian Armstrong, whose other film credits include Little Women, seems to have wanted to fully develop too many big themes - love, war, hope, betrayal - in one movie. As the various themes are pursued, the dominant female character gets out of focus. The movie pays tribute to the heroic deeds of brave individuals during war, but the way the story is told does not keep the audience in suspense, which a movie like this undoubtedly should.

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