Wednesday, 19 January 2011

'The King's Speech' Review

'The King's Speech' (dir: Tom Hooper, 2010/2011), Cert: 12A

Some British films seem to capture audiences all around the globe; occasionally they are Social-Realism/Comedy pictures like ‘The Full Monty’ (dir: Peter Cattaneo, 1997) or ‘Billy Elliot’ (dir: Stephan Daldry, 2000) but what usually draws the majority of global viewers is our wonderful period pieces, and our latest seems to be storming at the box-office. Already in line for a sack full of awards from all major ceremonies, including the potential to win 14 BAFTAs, director Tom Hooper’s latest ‘The King’s Speech’ is nothing less than a winner. The film sports an incredible cast and has had critics rolling over, so is this film really that good?

 The film follows the story of King George VI (Colin Firth); the monarch who reluctantly took the throne when his brother King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) abandoned it as Britain was heading toward the Second World War. George, or ‘Bertie’ as he’s more commonly known, suffers from a dreadful stammer that causes him to freeze and stumble through public readings and announcements. His wife, Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) decides to seek help and in doing so finds Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush); a zany and unusual speech therapist from Australia who forms a grand partnership with ‘Bertie’ and uses his bizarre methods to build confidence within him allowing him to speak freely. As his war-time speech approaches, the pair train relentlessly and achieve incredible results.

 Sometimes a film can just capture an audience; it can wrap them in it’s arms and hold you throughout, it can fill you with such rich emotions that every scene is a visual pleasure and it can make you want to re-visit it again and again; ‘The King’s Speech’ is one of those movies. Everything works wonders in this film, even Hooper’s direction. The majority of films about monarchs could easily be television movies; they rarely feel cinematic, but Hooper has pulled out all the stops and made this film with great skill and elegance. The story is one of the most joyous and uplifting I’ve seen in years, it leaves you smiling throughout and hopeful for the pair’s success.

 Regardless of whether it humanizes the Windsor family like other royal films, this picture teaches us to overcome obstacles in our everyday lives, a message that never fails to lose any social significance. We as an audience watch ‘Bertie’ and Lionel as two friends or two partners, we don’t really see them as a royal and an Aussie. Their relationship is a heart-warming and beautiful ‘Bromance’ which is surprisingly hilarious, I knew the film was supposed to have comedic elements, but I was shocked by just how funny it was. Their chemistry allows so much room to bump heads and let their egos cause friction; ‘Bertie’ frequently loses his temper and spurts royal jargon, whilst Lionel is the king in his office and enjoys pushing his client’s buttons; he may be dealing with a royal, but really he’s just another patient.

Still from 'The King's Speech' (dir: Tom Hooper, 2010/2011)

 Personally, I think this is the best British film since ‘An Education’ (dir: Lone Scherfig, 2009) because it gathers everything we do best with cinema and mixes it together. ‘The King’s Speech’ is frequently funny, engaging, believable and wonderful, it achieves more than many films could ever dream of. As I said before, every element of the picture works in it’s favour, but the core of the film is it’s stars.

 Firth is jaw-dropping, it’s as simple like that. It’s a crime that he’s never won big awards in America, but he will in 2011. No other leading male performance can touch him here. He plays the King is such a loving and creative manner; he truly becomes his role and aims to perfect everything about it. His stammer is incredible and the word pronunciation and breathing pauses only add to the sheer realism. Firth has always been an actor I’ve supported, I love the majority of his films and I will be filled with joy when he takes to the stage to collect his Oscar.

 There should be no shortage of praise for Rush however because he is astonishing too. Lionel lifts the audience’s spirit with his wacky methods, his side-splitting humour and his belief in ‘Bertie’. Rush is almost the composer to the King’s stuttered song and it’s plays along the screen like a dream. I’d love for Rush to win the Best Supporting Actor as he definitely deserves it but he has stiffer competition than Firth in his category. Bonham Carter is also a joy to watch and she brings plenty of laughs and smiles to the audience as Queen Elizabeth. The film also provides great supporting casting including the brilliant Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill and Michael Gambon as ‘Bertie’s’ strict and unforgiving father King George V.

 The picture also sports a score so beautiful it brings a tear to the eye. Composer Alexandre Desplat uses gentle piano and soft percussion to cushion this masterful picture. The composer has had a great year; he provided a fabulous score for ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1’ (dir: David Yates, 2010) and his work here is dazzling.

 ‘The King’s Speech’ is not only the best British film I’ve seen in a while, it’s also one of the best films I’ve seen recently, and I know this will feature on my top 10 of 2011. Like all great films, this picture leaves you feeling joyful when you exit the cinema screen, and that joy will stay with you for a long time.

A total triumph; an utter masterpiece that will win your vote as well as your heart.

By Chris Haydon

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