Charlotte Gray (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner27/02/2002

Two out of five stars
Running time: 121 mins

Worthy-but-dull adaptation of Faulk's novel - Blanchett is mostly fine, but the film fails to deliver in terms of excitement or the emotional wallop it sorely lacks.

Charlotte Gray comes slap-bang in the middle of a veritable renaissance of war movies, from literary adaptations (Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Enigma) and contemporary, visceral real-life conflicts (Black Hawk Down), to flimsily-based-on-real-life escapist popcorn flicks such as Behind Enemy Lines.

Indeed, there are still more to come, with both Mel Gibson's We Were Soldiers (Vietnam) and Bruce Willis' Hart's War (WWII) due for imminent release, meaning that the cinema-going public are in increasing danger of suffering from 'War-Movie Fatigue'. Unfortunately, Charlotte Gray will do little to remedy that feeling as it falls firmly into the 'worthy-but-dull' literary adaptation category, despite impeccable production design and a reliably solid performance from Cate Blanchett.

Adapted from the novel by Sebastian Faulks, Cate Blanchett stars as Charlotte Gray, a young woman who volunteers to go into France as an undercover agent after her RAF pilot lover is shot down and declared missing. Things then get ever so slightly complicated when she falls for the dashing leader of the local Resistance (a French-accented Billy Crudup).

The main problem with the film is that all the ingredients are there (conflict, betrayal, sabotage, romance, even the odd explosion) and yet the film remains curiously uninvolving - to continue the spurious cooking analogy, it's a bit like throwing things into a pot of boiling water and expecting to get soup.

Another problem is that the film struggles to overcome the internal nature of the book, meaning that we learn little of Charlotte's inner conflicts and she never displays anything approaching true passion, either for the cause or for the men in her life. Admittedly, this is more of a script problem than anything else and Cate Blanchett does the best she can under the circumstances, despite an occasionally wobbly Scottish accent.

Crudup also does his best, although the absence of any actual French actors in the film is a glaring oversight that occasionally serves as too much of a distraction - were there really no French actors available?

Having said all that, the production design (as with Enigma) is excellent, there are a couple of strong scenes (both of which are in the trailer) and it does pick up towards the end, but it's a good 20 minutes too long and by the 90-minute mark you'll be hard-pressed to avoid looking at your watch.

Watchable, then, but disappointing.

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Content updated: 11/12/2017 05:51

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