So here we have it. The most recent Best Picture winner is now on Blu-Ray. What can I really say about The King’s Speech that hasn’t been said already? It was the critical darling of 2010 and was the awards favorite at just about every ceremony. It’s undoubtedly a good film but personally, I didn’t love it. It’s well made and well acted but did it deserve everything it was awarded? No. Was it the best film of the year? No. Still, it’s a very strong film and excels on many fronts. It’s an excellent effort and a piece of cinema that is well worth seeing.
The film tells the true and quite inspiring story of King George VI (Colin Firth). The King has a problem, he stutters when he speaks and as a king, who has to give speeches, this is obviously an issue. To remedy it, he seeks out the help of Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist who agrees to aid the king in getting rid of his stammer. Lionel and George’s friendship crosses social boundaries but as those boundaries disappear, George realizes that Lionel may be the only person who he can rely on. As they work together, the two form a genuinely touching relationship as George prepares to give one of the biggest speeches of his life and also deals with the politics going on within his own family.
It sounds like a simple premise, and it is. And surprisingly, they were able to make an entire film out of it. Now while it does work, some may find that using a speech as the climax of the film may be a bit underwhelming, and in a way it is. But it’s the lead up and the preparation for the speech that makes the film. It’s the relationship between Lionel and George, the struggle that George faces as an entire nation waits on him. That’s what makes the movie. That’s the heart of the film.
Tom Hooper’s period piece was made very clearly with awards in mind. It basically peacocks for Oscar gold throughout the entire runtime. And it obviously worked. The film picked up a number of awards including a well deserved Oscar for Best Actor. Firth won the Oscar that he deserved the year before for A Single Man. His performance is fantastic and he’s really the main reason to see the movie.
Unsurprisingly though, Rush matches him in every way. And when the two are together on screen it’s pure magic. The rest of the film just disappears as you watch the two go head to head and give the performance of their lives. The push and pull between them is captivating to watch and they really elevate the film to a new level. This is some of the best interplay between two actors that I have ever seen.
Supporting cast members also give it their all. It’s quite an impressive line up that we get for the supporting parts. Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon and Timothy Spall round out the cast. They’re all near perfect in their roles and only add to the superb acting that we get from Rush and Firth.
As mentioned before, it’s kind of hard to get excited about a speech. It’s hard to feel satisfied by an ending that really just has a man making a speech. It’s supposed to inspire a nation and be of great symbolic importance but it’s hard to feel or resonate with that, especially if you aren’t British/weren’t around in that time. Don’t get me wrong, parts of the film are riveting, just not the finale. It may be crowd pleasing but it’s a bit underwhelming.
That aside, the film doesn’t have many problems. Occasionally, a bit of iffy pacing gets in the way. The film seems to snail along at a few points and a couple scenes could have been cut down a bit. Also, a whiff of predictability fills the air for the entire film (even if you don’t know the true story), this keeps it from being as suspenseful or gripping as it could have otherwise been.
Lastly, without Rush and Firth’s fantastic performances, the film wouldn’t be nearly as good as it is. They really make the film and the entire movie revolves around the two. And that’s really the thing with the film. It’s a good film, well made, well written and nicely put together, but without Rush and Firth that’s all it is. It’s just a good film. Rush and Firth take it from good to great.
Tom Hooper‘s assured and intelligent direction coupled with David Seidler‘s heartfelt and strong script combines for a very well done movie. Technically it’s also exceptional with wonderful production design, impeccable costumes and eye appealing cinematography. Throw in Firth and Rush, along with a strong cast of supporting actors and you have an undoubtedly great film. Did I love it? No. But I did like it, a lot. I don’t think it was better than The Social Network or Inception, but it’s still a finely made picture and worth your time.
The film’s beautiful cinematography shines through on Blu-Ray in what is an overall decent transfer. Colours are rich and detail is quite fine. Skin tones are a bit pasty here and there and in some scenes the image is a bit flat. A bit of grain is retained and black levels are ok with only minor crush. Sound design is quite limited but it’s not necessarily bad. Music is used appropriately and the score is actually quite good. Dialogue is centred and always clear and subwoofer activity is kept to a minimum.
Special features include the following:
- Audio Commentary
- The King’s Speech: An Inspirational Story of an unlikely Friendship
- Q&A With the Director & the Cast
- Speeches From the Real King George VI
- The Real Lionel Logue
- The Stuttering Foundation — Public Service Announcement
First up we have a pretty in depth commentary from director Tom Hooper. He tells us not only about the filmmaking process but also about the real life story that inspired the film. He speaks about almost every technical aspect of the film as well, telling us everything from how the music played such an important role to why certain scenes were shot the way they were. It’s an insightful and smart commentary that rarely includes a dull spot. If you enjoyed the film then it’s a must listen.
Next we have a feature called The King’s Speech: An Inspirational Story of an Unlikely Friendship. It’s a making of that has clips from the film mixed in with interviews. It talks about the cast, the director, the real life King George VI and Lionel Logue, achieving the right look for the film being that it’s a period piece and more. It runs for almost 25 minutes and has a bit of a promotional feel to it. While it isn’t incredibly extensive, it’s still a nice feature and worth a watch.
Next is a Q&A that runs for around 20 minutes. Participants include Claire Bloom, Guy Pearce, Tom Hooper, Helena Bonham Carter, and Colin Firth. We then have some speeches from the real King George VI and finally, the last extra worth checking out is the short little overview that looks at the real Lionel Logue.
So to sum it up, I do think the film is a bit overrated. It didn’t deserve all the awards it won and there were certainly better films that came out in 2010. Still, it’s a very well done movie that deserves your attention. The Blu-Ray (audio and video) is acceptable and special features are sufficient. Overall, I recommend a purchase as I don’t think you’ll be let down.
The King's Speech is a very strong film and excels on many fronts. It's an excellent effort and a piece of cinema that is worth seeing.