Film Still Courtesy of Music Box Films
The bold French movie “The Conquest” is a rarity — a feature film with the guts to criticize the sitting head of government of its own country. Britain’s “The Queen” dared critique both Prime Minister Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth II in 2006 while both were still in power, just as Nanni Moretti’s 2006 film “Il Caimano” (“The Alligator”) skewered Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. But this is usually the role of documentaries, and aside from a few exceptions, “The Conquest’s” story about the rise of Nicolas Sarkozy to France’s presidency is almost unprecedented.
Denis Podalydès is uncanny as Sarkozy in Xavier Durringer’s fast paced film, perfectly capturing the strutting politician’s look and mannerisms. He expertly portrays the former Interior Minister, nicknamed “Sarko,” as a brash backstabber, relentless in his climb to power. Whether clashing with political rivals, Arabs rioting in France’s suburbs, or his wife Cecilia (Florence Pernel), Podalydès’s Sarkozy is blunt, brutal and ruthless. His rightwing politics are correspondingly mean spirited.