The King's Speech

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Colin Firth should check that his passport has a few months left on it, because he’s bound to be hot-footing it round the awards ceremonies as 2010 turns into 2011 for his turn as royalty in this historical drama about how the Queen’s father, King George VI, conquered his debilitating stammer. The combination of Firth’s charms with a true story about a royal battle against physical adversity may even see him win an Oscar following his also-ran experience last year with ‘A Single Man’. A second win at the Baftas must also be likely.

It’s a funny subject for a drama, you might think, and Tom Hooper’s film doesn’t entirely storm the empathy barriers, but it’s nevertheless polite and entertaining and features enticing performances from both Firth and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, his Australian speech therapist. The scenes between the two are the film’s best, along with surprisingly suspenseful and moving scenes that top and tail the film when the King attempts to give speeches in public or on radio.

Firth rigorously sticks to the King’s cold core – there’s no anachronistic emotional thawing, thank God – while Rush has lots of fun with his Aussie’s extreme lack of deference. We can only assume that co-financing requirements necessitated the casting of an unconvincing Guy Pearce as Edward VIII, while Timothy Spall’s Winston Churchill, although physically similar, offers a voice that sounds a little too sourced from the man’s radio performances.

Hooper is not the most visually exciting of directors and leans heavily on tricks you’d associate with superior television: near-fish-eye or shallow depth-of-field shots and ample smoke effects. But the sense of period is strong and made especially real in scenes in which royalty find themselves incongruously in small, distinctly non-palatial homes.

By: Dave Calhoun


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