Surrounded by muted, autumnal colours, Cate Blanchett's luminous beauty is given plenty of screen time in Charlotte Gray, but so is her remarkable talent as an actress: this is assuredly her film, and she carries its dramatic weight with complete authority. Billy Crudup and Michael Gambon are both excellent in supporting roles, but Gillian Armstrong (who directed Blanchett in Oscar and Lucinda) knows a good thing when she has it in front of her cameras and keeps the focus resolutely on her lead actress.
Based on Sebastian Faulks' Second World War novel, the story concerns the eponymous Scottish heroine, who is persuaded to join the Special Operations Executive and parachute into occupied Southern France to work as a courier. Patriotism is outwardly her motive, but secretly she's trying to find news of her lover, a downed RAF pilot. She falls in with the local French resistance led by Julien (Crudup, utterly convincing as a Frenchman) and finds sanctuary with his father (Gambon), who helps them hide two young Jewish boys from both the Gestapo and Vichy government officials. Believing her lover to be dead, Charlotte becomes dangerously involved with the fate of the boys, and with the idealistic and passionate Julien.
It's all the stuff of good melodrama, though the cast are too experienced and the director too sensitive to overcook the end result. As might be expected from the screenwriter and producer of Mrs Brown, Charlotte Gray concerns itself more with the small gestures of heroism than the grand pyrotechnics. Anyone expecting an epic war movie will be disappointed: this is a low-key drama with only a handful of action scenes, but it's all the more emotionally involving as a result. --Mark Walker
Release Date: Jan 5, 2004 Audio:
Dolby Digital 5.1
16:9 Anamorphic Wide Screen
Directors Commentary Featurettes A Village Revisits History And Living Through Wartime Interview With Gillian Armstrong Interview With Cate Blanchett Cast And Crew Interviews TV Spots Trailer Deleted Scenes Behind Enemy Lines The Real Charlotte Grays