If you’ve even flown into France. then chances are you’ve arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport. I’ll admit that while I knew Charles De Gaulle was once the President of France, I knew very little else about him. That is why, to me, De Gaulle is such a fascinating film as it shows as side to Charles and his wife that very few people outside of France would have known about.
De Gaulle begins with Charles (Lambert Wilson) as a military man. His calls are the only things that seem to be keeping the Nazis out of France. Meanwhile his wife, Yvonne (Isabelle Carre), does all that she can to protect their children from the invading forces. But then some of the weaker (and potentially corrupt) politicians push an agenda that France should just surrender to the Nazis, meaning that Yvonne would need to go on the run while Charles has to work closely with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Tim Hudson) to try and save France.
As far as biopics go, I have to say this is one of the best we have seen over recent years. From director Gabriel Le Bomin, the film delves deeply into what made Charles and Yvonne the people that they become, while staying true to what actually happened and not over-sensationalising the events.
Le Bomin finds the right mixture of dialogue driven scenes and true suspense. There are a few ‘edge of seat’ moments scattered throughout De Gaulle, and such is the power of the screenplay that generates just as much suspense from Yvonne and the family trying to physically outrun the Nazis, as it does from the intense scenes between Charles and the other politicians discussing whether or not France should surrender. And while I won’t spoil any of the storyline, there is a particular sequence on a boat that I will remember for a long time to come.
As a side story, the De Gaulle also looks at how disabled children were treated during this time. The fact that doctors used terms like ‘Mongoloid’ to describe Charles and Yvonne’s daughter is impactful and I found myself relieved that the world is a very different place now. Even if we still have a long way to go. Love is a central part of this film, both love for family and for France, and that comes across strongly throughout the film.
The portrayal of Charles by Lambert Wilson is truly impressive. I have no doubt that if this had been an American film, Wilson would have generated enough praise to be considered as a potential award winner, and he is well supported by the cast around him. Isabelle Carre puts in an amazing supporting performance as Yvonne, while the young cast playing their children are also great. De Gaulle is a stunningly brilliant historical film, consisting of great acting performances and a director that truly understands the meaning of suspense, making De Gaulle one of the most enjoyable films that I have seen this year