The King's Speech
- Street Date:
- April 19th, 2011
- Reviewed by:
- Aaron Peck
- Review Date: 1
- April 13th, 2011
- Movie Release Year:
- Starz/Anchor Bay
- 118 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Rated R
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
King George VI (Colin Firth), known as "Bertie" to his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) and soon to be friend Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), speaks with a debilitating stammer. One of the most powerful people in the world and he can hardly carry on a face-to-face conversation. After his brother King Edward VIII steps down from the monarchy, George is to take his place. The mantle of the entire British Empire is thrust upon a man who can barely string together a sentence.
The year is 1939, and Britain is on the brink of war with Germany, the Nazis, and Hitler. King George VI is supposed to address millions of people worldwide on live radio. The speech has been written for him, but will he be able to deliver it without making a fool of himself in front of the entire world? Can he summon the power and respect of his title and deliver the reassuring and commanding words his people need to hear?
That's where Lionel Logue comes in. He's a speech therapist, and George goes to see him out of desperation. He grew up with this stammer and it won't go away. He's tried every sort of therapist and doctor out there and no one can cure him of his stutter.
Logue is a different kind of teacher. Along with the mechanics of speech, Logue also wants to delve into George's past. There must be a psychological reason he's got this speech impediment. There must be something in his past that made this happen.
Even though much of the movie is about George's stammer and Logue helping him overcome it, the movie really isn't about that at all. Here is a king, ruler of a quarter of the world's population at the time, and he has zero confidence. Then he meets a confident common man who helps him find the confidence he's been searching desperately for. A king finds friendship and a lifelong companion in an everyday subject of sorts.
'The King's Speech' walked away from this year's Oscars with a bucket full of golden statues, including Best Director, Best Actor, and even Best Picture. Do I personally think it was the best movie of 2010? No, I don't think so. It's a touching movie, with some very moving direction and some brilliant acting from Firth and Rush, but I don't think that it was the best film of the year.
Still, 'The King's Speech' is a movie that sheds light on a little known story about one of the most famous kings of England. The scenes that Firth and Rush share are electric. They have some of the best chemistry I've ever seen on screen. Not only are they devastatingly emotional with each other, they're also insanely quick-witted. 'The King's Speech' is much funnier than I could have ever imagined.
There are many memorable moments here, from George trying his best to stand up to his brother Edward, to the final scene where he walks toward the radio microphone for his wartime address, like he's walking to his own execution. In the end though, this is a story about two men who should never even known each other, but by fate were thrown together and became lifetime friends. There's a lot of stammering in 'The King's Speech,' but ultimately it's about the power of friendship.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Imagine watching an episode of Masterpiece Theater and you about get the gist of how 'The King's Speech' looks on Blu-ray.
Actually, I was a little disappointed in its look. For a newer film, this transfer should have been shining and radiant, but it seems rather glum and dreary. That's not to say that I think scenes of foggy old London should be bright and sunny, I'm sure those scenes are handled with care, but overall the entire image has a flat, matte look to it. I was hard pressed to find any scene that really handled depth and dimensionality well. Blacks are very flat and harbor quite a bit of unnecessary noise. Take for instance the times where George and his wife ride the elevator down to Logue's office. Once they get in the elevator and the background becomes darker, noise runs rampant through the picture. Noise that was otherwise not there before. There is a light layer of cinematic grain, but the noise contained in many of the darker scenes is far too noticeable to be just film grain. Colors are muted, but I'm sure that has more to do with the intended look of the film. There are some beautiful scenes of color, especially the hodgepodge wall in Logue's office that George sits in front of. Fine detail isn't as optimal as we've come to expect from high definition, as many facial features appear flattened.
This is a decent transfer, but if you were hoping for a demo-worth disc for this year's Best Picture winner then you'll be disappointed.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The DTS-HD Master Audio lossless track accompanying 'The King's Speech' fares much better.
This is a talkative drama, so much of the sound design is centered up front. Every stammering bit of dialogue is presented clearly through the center and front channels. Where the track really shines is in its surround sound capabilities. There's no action to speak of in this movie, but it finds more subtle ways to give us an encompassing audio presentation. Right at the beginning, as George speaks into the microphone, his voice echoes through the soundfield, bleeding in the rear speakers, making us feel like we're right there listening to his struggle. The creaky old elevator in Logue's office rattles its way down to the lower levels, simultaneously shaking every surround channel in your system.
There aren't a lot of flashy moments, but this track treats the material right, and gives the listener more than a few moments where they can feel engrossed by its sound.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
- Audio Commentary — Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper is the sole commentator on this track. He provides a very lively commentary, which has become increasingly rare when there's only one person talking. He's full of knowledge about the historical characters, and recounts the history as we see it happening on screen. Hooper also covers just about every technical aspect of filmmaking you'd ever want to know. He talks about the musical choices and why they meant so much in certain scenes, he talks about his admiration for his actors, and he also gives insights into why he shot certain scenes the way he did. This is an all around wonderful commentary that every fan of this movie should listen to at some point.
- 'The King's Speech': An Inspirational Story of an Unlikely Friendship (SD, 23 min.) — This is basically a making-of featurette that feels pretty promotional. Actors and filmmakers discuss their love for the story. The real-life events of what really happened with George VI and Logue are discussed here. The period look of the movie is covered. And just about everything else you'd want to have cursory information about is touched upon. I thought it was weird that this featurette was only presented in standard definition.
- Q&A With the Director & the Cast (HD, 22 min.) — Guy Pearce, Tom Hooper, Helena Bonham Carter, Colin Firth, and Claire Bloom join KCRW's Matt Holzman for a question and answer session that covers much of the movie and the real-life events of King George VI's life.
- Speeches From the Real King George VI (HD, 8 min.) — Two of the original speeches are included here. The speech before the war on September 3, 1939 and the speech after the war given May 14, 1945. The pre-war speech is audio only, but the post-war speech is recorded on video.
- The Real Lionel Logue (SD, 10 min.) — An interview of Lionel Logue's grandson. He talks about the real man and how he helped the king.
- The Stuttering Foundation – PSA (SD, 1 min.) — A public service announcement is included from the Stuttering Foundataion.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
There are no Blu-ray exclusives included.
'The King's Speech' deserved to be in that group of ten movies nominated for best picture, but I'm not so sure it should have won. My opinion on that fact aside, this is still a moving film, one of the best 2010 had to offer. Firth and Rush are at the top of their games here, and if you watch and listen to the speeches included in the special features, you'll see that Firth absolutely nailed the role. The video could have been better, but I thoroughly enjoyed the audio presentation. 'The King's Speech' comes recommended on Blu-ray.
- 50GB Blu-ray Disc
- 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English SDH, Spanish
- Audio commentary with director Tom Hooper
- Making of Featurette: An Inspirational Story of an Unlikely Friendship
- Q&A with the director and the cast including Colin Firth
- Speeches from the real King George VI
- The real Lionel Logue highlights
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