Charlotte Gray

Posted: September 28, 2008 in Covert Operations, Special Operations Executive, Uncategorized, WWII

A not-great film with some spectacular casting, 2001’s “Charlotte Gray” tells a story of a Scot SOE dame played by Cate Blanchett who joins the infamous unit after her pilot boyfriend is shot down over France.

When we first meet Charlotte, she is a returning from her native Scotland to London where she is employed. WWII has already begun and Charlotte has a rather terse conversation with a gentleman on the train regarding her opinions on the subject. He notices she is reading a book in French and hands her his card.

Charlotte is later reintroduced to the gentleman at a party where it is explained to her that said gent would like to recruit her for the SOE. Charlotte begins mulling it over when she then meets Peter, the man with whom she immediately becomes smitten.

Peter goes off to war and is later reported to have been shot down somewhere over France. This incident serves as the impetus for Charlotte to finally join the SOE. We get to witness her physical training, weapons training, radio instruction and briefings. At some point, Charlotte is deemed suitable to go operational and we get to witness what Vera Atkin’s job was largely about, and then Charlotte parachutes into France.

From there, we meet to the French Resistance leader, a local boy who doesn’t particularly like Charlotte and further complicates matters by taking in two small Jewish boys after their parents were shipped off to the concentration camps.

Charlotte gets to play nursemaid to the children by day while she helps disrupt train lines by night. She meets with handlers and tries her best to remain under the radar of local informers. All the while she is desperately trying to find out information about her boyfriend Peter.

The best scene of the film occurs when Charlotte first arrives in town and attempts to make contact with a fellow SOE agent. The woman is distraught, informs Charlotte she has been identified as an agent, and what follows is a terrifically tense few moments of police inspection while the stricken agent is led away. Charlotte later learns the agent was executed.

It’s a sloppy narrative with a lot of loose ends and one of the most anti-climactic endings of all times. But the movie was shot in a French country town where real SOE agents operated and as a period piece, you get a good sense of what these ladies were up against.

Not the best representation of a spy-dame on film, and waste of talent on the behalf of an amazing cast, but for a period piece, “Charlotte Gray” is worth checking out.

  1. […] in Noor’s life were borrowed, like many other female agents, for the fictional character of Charlotte Gray. Also, numerous books and articles have been published about Noor…all referring to her as the […]

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