Directed by: Tom Hooper
Premise: A dramatization of the relationship between King George VI (Colin Firth) and his speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush). The new king must overcome his debilitating stutter before making a critical speech at the start of World War II.
What Works: Historical films often suffer because the drama generally takes place against epic canvases and characters are typically lost in the scenery. But The King’s Speech avoids this pitfall. Like he accomplished in the John Adams miniseries, director Tom Hooper makes history come alive on the screen. The film stays away from the stagy acting and classical shot composition that many historical films tend to cling to and instead makes use of naturalistic acting and contemporary camera techniques. The result is a historical film that manages to get much more personal with its characters than a lot of other pictures in this genre and in that way heighten the drama and make historical figures into vibrant, living characters. The actors of The King’s Speech use this focus on character to their advantage and provide performances in keeping with the personal style of the film. Colin Firth does a great job as King George VI and he makes the monarch vulnerable and sensitive but also a smart and an ethically conscious man. The screenplay gives the conflict of the story multiple dimensions and craftily escalates the challenge from overcoming a personal flaw to preserving the integrity of the family, to eventually inspiring the nation and countering the oratory skills of Adolf Hitler. Also impressive in the film is Geoffrey Rush as speech therapist Lionel Logue. Rush brings his usual mischievous energy to the part of Logue but he is also restrained enough so that he never overcomes Firth’s role.
What Doesn’t: In many ways The King’s Speech is patterned after sports films, with Firth as the competitor and Rush as the coach. As such, the film follows the standard plot beats of a sports film and is somewhat predictable.
Bottom Line: The King’s Speech a great film as it retells a story of history in ways that capture the fortitude and humanity of the figures it portrays The film is very well shot and directed and has a pair of strong performances by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.
Episode: #321 (January 9, 2011)