"It's the midget" is the constant refrain heard in Xavier Durringer's chronicle of Nicolas Sarkozy's rise to power, following the French leader (Podalyds) as he ascends the ranks of government ministries and pole-position appointments before becoming the country's president in 2007. Wearily sighed and issued as a warning, the phrase is his opponents' futile way of turning this glory-lusting mountain of a man into a molehill. (The nickname also brings to mind Roman Polanski's nasty little thug in Chinatown, and the thought of what might have been had the Polish director been cast as Sarkozy sets the mind reeling far more than the film itself does.)
The explicit reason for his Machiavellian machinations, according to Durringer and his cowriter, Patrick Rotman, is attributed not to the president's height, but his heart. "I do all of this for you," Sarkozy keeps telling his second wife, Ccilia (Pernel), who leaves him the day after he gets elected. It's a Peter Morgan--ish attempt to humanize the political pit bull, but an ill-advised one: Saying this complex man did it all for love is about as regrettably reductive as saying he did it because he was short. You're best off ignoring The Conquest's desperate stabs at interpersonal niceness sans insight; focus, instead, on the movie's bristling bitchiness, as Sarkozy exchanges unpleasantries with Jacques Chirac (Le Coq) and blows up at his entourage of buzzing fruit-fly lackeys. A drama about the dirty business of gaining power, it needs bared fangs---and more bite.
Follow David Fear on Twitter: @davidlfear
Watch the trailer