The currently ubiquitous, streep- ishly accent-switching Cate Blanchett plays the title role in Charlotte Gray as a Scottish woman in London during World War II who becomes an undercover agent in support of the French Resistance in order to be nearer to her dashing RAF sweetheart, shot down in France. Once there, Charlotte (now called Dominique, but never heard speaking a word of French) is taken in at a picturesque farmhouse by Julien (Billy Crudup), an even more dashing Resistance leader of Communist philosophy, and Julien’s feisty father (Michael Gambon), one of cinema’s gruff patriotic gents of the Gallic wartime countryside. Everyone learns life lessons when not weeping, sabotaging Nazis, hiding Jewish children, or dressing in a chic style that might be called ”la Résistance, par Armani.”
As directed by Gillian Armstrong from Jeremy Brock’s workaday screenplay adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ 1999 novel, this is a frustratingly inert story, a bookend to last year’s wooden ”Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.” It’s a saga of sacrifice and patriotism in which, in the absence of anything more substantial, Blanchett’s cheekbones are lit like monuments to freedom. Whether Charlotte’s vivid red coat is a monument to the little girl in the red coat of ”Schindler’s List” is a subject for discussion after memory of the movie has evaporated, which happens immediately upon liberation from the theater.