Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Elliot Hyams gets ready to hear what the new biopic of George VI has to say for itself.

Sadly, 2010 turned out to be the year of the 3D no brainer with films like Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, Saw 3D, and Tron Legacy side stepping things like narrative, logic, and a well written script in favour of giant smurfs flying out of the screen. It didn’t matter if it was any good as long as it was in 3D leading self proclaimed king of the world James Cameron to declare “whether you like it or not, 3D is the future of film.” Well unfortunately for Mr Cameron 2011 is shaping to be the year that intelligent films fought back. So far we have had Black Swan, True Grit, Somewhere, and The Fighter. All well made, well written, thought provoking films that prove that gimmicks are no substitute for quality, and the resistance seems set to continue with the release of the fantastic new biopic of King George VI’s ascent to the throne, The King’s Speech.

Colin Firth stars as Prince Albert, the second son of King George V, and father of our current Queen. With his father showing the signs of age and his elder brother David engaged in a scandalous affair with an American divorcee, it becomes apparent to the prince that he may have to one day take the throne. However, he suffers from a crippling stammer that makes any form of public speaking impossible and has destroyed any confidence he may have ever had. As a last resort his wife Elizabeth, played by Helena Bonham Carter, takes him to see Geoffrey Rush’s quirky Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue. As Prince Albert becomes King George and the threat of war grows closer, the country’s need to hear their King speak grows ever more present. Against this backdrop a unique and wonderful friendship begins to grow between Lionel and Bertie as the King tries to find his voice.

The Kings Speech is more than just another royal biopic, it is a drama about a man’s struggle with the pressure of the great responsibility put upon him, but more than anything else it is a story of friendship. The construction of the relationship between Bertie and Lionel is fantastically written and realised, littered with moments of genuinely charming comedy. The narrative never drags due to the snappy dialogue, and director Tom Hooper uses his camera subtly and inventively, often utilising tight shots to create a sense of tension when Bertie is forced to speak. Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush excel in their roles, Rush in particular seems to be having a great time playing Lionel, but it is Firth who deserves the most credit for his performance as the self doubting monarch. He does more than simply stutter on demand he gives Bertie an air of vulnerability and frustration that adds depth and a sense of history to the character. The Kings Speech won’t be for everyone, but those willing to give it a chance will discover an engrossing and thoughtful piece of cinema. This is a film with heart and soul and shouts loud and clear to Mr Cameron that the war isn’t over yet.

Review by Elliot Hyams

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