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The King's Speech DVD Review

REVIEWS - DVD REVIEWS

A private struggle - and now a very public success...

The King's Speech (DVD, 2011)

As I - and Shadowlocked - come to review The King's Speech for the first time, I am reminded of its acclaim to date. Seven BAFTA awards - including best picture, actor and actress - from a record-breaking 14 nominations; four Academy Awards, again including best picture and actor; and numerous 5/10 star reviews from many of the most prolific and respected critics to date. And all this was achieved on a mere £8 ($15) million budget, a minuscule figure when compared to two of its 'Best Picture competitors, Toy Story 3 ($200 million) and Inception ( $160 million). So, with this in the forefront of my mind, how could I possibly be expected to review this film objectively?

Simple...I had no interest in seeing this film whatsoever. In fact, it took me almost a month before I managed to sit down and watch the DVD but, like many before me, I soon began to understand just why The King's Speech was so deserving of its universal exaltation.

The basic - if not whole - premise of this film regards the stutter with which King George VI (formerly known as Prince Albert, Duke of York) suffered from during his reign of England. After a disastrous attempt at addressing his people - and conclude the 1925 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium - the Prince seeks treatment for his stutter, so as to escape from the obvious embarrassment he has suffered throughout his life. However, it's not until 'Bertie' - as his family call him - is introduced to the unconventional speech therapist Lionel Logue (brilliantly played by Geoffrey Rush) that progress begins to be made, despite the regular objections from the Prince himself. Logue accepts the Prince as a patient, but on the conditions that their Christian names are used; and that Bertie is willing to, for the length of the sessions at least, accept him as his equal.

Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush as King George VI and Lionel LogueBertie continues to see Lionel until, after a heated argument with his brother that left him unable to speak, Lionel makes a suggestion that the Prince is in fact scared of his own fate, rather than his brother or father. He goes on to suggest that Bertie would make a deserving and respected King; a suggestion that outrages the Prince to such an extent that he accuses Logue of treason and mocks his humble origins and Australian heritage, before storming off and promising never to return to Logue. However, following the abdication of his brother, King George VI returns to the Logue residence to apologise and request the help of his former therapist and friend. Logue duly accepts, and begins to prepare the King for his upcoming, broadcasted speech regarding the start of WWII with Germany.

Outside of his therapy, director Tom Hooper does a fantastic job of highlighting the stress and divide occurring within the Royal family at the time - from brother David's (Prince of Wales) persistent, and somewhat frivolous, choice of partners, to his father's failing health and lack of sympathy towards his condition. What The King's Speech does, to its credit, is intertwine a number of separate stories and transform them into 118 minutes of true viewing pleasure. While the film may not contain a $50 million + budget - or a mind-bending and reality-altering plot - Hooper appeases the simplest of cinematic requirements needed to guarantee a film's success...a gripping storyline. From start to finish, you just cannot draw yourself away from the screen; intrigued by this authentic - if not a tad exaggerated - story of a common man's struggle located within its rather privileged host. Yet it is the deconstruction of the Royal hierarchy that is this film's most impressive feature. The taking of mistresses; the violent outbursts of our King-to-be; the self-righteous air with which many carry themselves -  suddenly the Royal family become very, well, accessible to the common man and woman.

So what of the casting? Well, with the likes of Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth and Helen Bonham Carter it was never going to struggle, but it's hard to appreciate just how good the casting is without viewing. Colin Firth is absolutely sublime as King George VI, as is Bonham Carter as his wife Elizabeth. The research undertaken and skill of Firth in particular is ever present throughout the film, a point proven by this open-ended appreciation from a former stammerer. Firth's obvious dedication to his role makes for a truly believable performance, and on many occasions I felt as if it was Firth himself struggling with the impediment. Furthermore, Rush's performance as Lionel Logue is not just a great performance but, in my opinion, one of his best. As the slightly peculiar - yet nevertheless revolutionary - Logue, Rush brings his quirky charisma and eccentric personality forward to deliver what is nothing short of a captivating performance. The on-screen duel between the two is a foundation on which this film is built, and taking away either from the equation would see the film crumble around it. Strangely, there were times throughout the film where I found Rush's actions to be reminiscent of his performance as Captain Barbossa - something I am still unable to explain, but nevertheless enjoyed.

As if that wasn't enough, The King's Speech also features a fine array of support actors and actresses, and again, the casting of both Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill and Michael Gambon as King George V were just spot on. Spall is, for me at least, one of the finest actors this country has ever produced, so his inclusion in a wholly British success is pleasing to say the least.

In conclusion, I cannot recommend this film enough. The King's Speech is not only one of the best films of 2010, but one of the best films I have ever watched. What Hooper and Co have done with - let's face it - a rather average story, is transform it into a captivating, emotional tale of one man's struggle against a life-long problem. The film is a marvel to both British and global film, and its success could not have been more deserved. From casting to locations to its minimalist use of backing music, The King's Speech manages to balance everything perfectly, before delivering a film of such quality that is has now grossed over £480 million! Furthermore, the social recognition it gave to what, for many, is an innate problem was priceless; another reason this film was so worthy of its praise.

If you haven't already, see this film as soon as you can...you won't be disappointed.

5 stars

Extras:

Like the film, the extras featured on the DVD really are faultless, and it's great to see that, for once, a commendable degree of effort has gone into the bonus features. All the usual's are there - from the cinematic trailer to the director's commentary to the picture gallery from filming - but it is the unique extras that really define this DVD. The interview with Mark Logue - the grand-son of Lionel - is both informative and enjoyable to watch, and the 'making of' really gives you a good insight into how the films production came to be. However, it is the original footage - and sound - of the real King George VI addressing his people that really sets this film above its competitors. To see the King - with the knowledge gained from the film - is remarkable, giving you a further appreciation for both his struggles and the valor required for him to prevail. Furthermore, it again highlights the remarkable performance of Colin Firth because, as the video of King George's speech shows, the actor picked up on every trait and stutter of the former King, before replicating it in his performance.

The King's Speech is a film that just keeps on giving and, thanks to the added extras and the obvious effort that have gone into them, comes highly recommended.

5 stars

The King's Speech is out now.


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