Director: Tom Hooper
Writer: David Seidler
Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall
Running Length: 118 minutes
Synopsis: Beginning in 1925, The King’s Speech tells the story of Prince Albert (Colin Firth), the second son of King George V (Michael Gambon). As he’s not the eldest son, he is not expected to ascend to the throne. However, when his older brother Prince Edward (Guy Pearce) abdicates after the death of their father, the unwilling Prince Albert is forced to take his brother’s place. Albert’s wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) is equally unwilling to take up residence in Buckingham Palace. Also, the King is expected to make live speeches over the radio, another problem arises – Albert has a severe stuttering problem, and renders him virtually incapable of public speaking. In an attempt to rid himself of this speech impediment, he seeks out Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist harking from Australia and is known for his unorthodox (but effective) methods. The importance of overcoming his stutter is increased when the world is on the brink of descending into another World War, and Albert has to inspire and lead his people into war.
Review: The synopsis for The King’s Speech may make it out to be a stuffy, boring biopic, but the end result is anything but. In fact, The King’s Speech is likely to be one of the most satisfying cinematic experiences in 2011, with an accessible, fascinating storyline (and a true one, at that), and some of the best ensemble acting I have seen in years. All the acting award nominations and accolades that the cast have received so far this awards season are truly deserving. Coupled with the polished, rousing screenplay and the assured direction of Tom Hooper, and it’s easy to see why The King’s Speech will end up as one of the best films in 2011 despite its early release date.
There’s no denying that Colin Firth is an excellent actor, and in The King’s Speech he gives a performance that mirrors Helen Mirren’s equally brilliant turn as Queen Elizabeth in The Queen. Firth completely immerses himself in the role, effectively transforming into Prince Albert, and easily becomes the emotional centre of the movie. It’s not easy acting out a convincing stutter, but Firth more or less nails it. Colin Firth deserves not just his Oscar nomination, but the win itself.
Geoffrey Rush has the unenviable task of being cast opposite Firth as his foil, but Rush more than holds his own with a equally good performance as the quirky speech therapist who doesn’t quite know how to deal with a “celebrity client” like Prince Albert. Helena Bonham Carter is delightful in her small number of scenes, and the added bonus is that both these supporting actors have very good chemistry with Firth. Even the minor characters are rather impressive – Timothy Spall does a pretty convincing interpretation of Winston Churchill, and Michael Gambon exudes a regal air as King George V, amongst others. Fans of the Pride and Prejudice mini-series that made Colin Firth a household name would also be pleased to note that Jennifer Ehle, his co-star in the series, also shares screen time with him in The King’s Speech as Lionel’s wife (this is their first collaboration since P&P).
The final scene of the movie, which revolves around the delivery of the titular speech, is a stellar example of top-notch filmmaking – the environment is sparsely adorned both visually and aurally, and only the two performers, Rush and Firth, factor into the scene. Hooper leads the audience into focusing on the back-and-forth that occurs between the two actors during the delivery of the speech, and when it concludes, it’s almost impossible to not feel a sense of exhilaration at what had just transpired. There’s no fancy camerawork, no visual trickery, and definitely no 3D – The King’s Speech harkens back to a time where films are taken solely on their core merits and not the pointless frills, and this it does very, very well.
Rating: * * * * (out of four stars)