An elderly woman enters a small corner shop in London for milk. She is shuffled about and ignored by other shoppers and the clerk. What those in the shop fail to realize is that the old woman with glasses, bundled in an overcoat and headscarf, is none other than former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep), who played an integral role in shaping the policies of the Western world during her nearly twelve years in office.
Scripted by Abi Morgan (Shame) the story is told in flashbacks, with an aged Thatcher, experiencing dementia, wandering around her home, talking to the jovial presence of her long dead husband Denis (Jim Broadbent, played in his younger years by Harry Lloyd). Often unable to distinguish her past from present, she finds herself drifting back to her youth. The proud daughter of a politically aware Grantham grocer, Margaret Roberts (wonderfully played as a young woman by Alexandra Roach), secured a place at Oxford. By the age of twenty-four, she had an all consuming dream of serving in Parliament as a Tory, a domain inhabited exclusively by men. In 1949, she met businessman Denis Thatcher, a man ten years her senior, and clearly besotted by the young Margaret, then making her first bid, albeit unsuccessful, for a seat in Parliament. Aside from the occasional squabble, Denis would be a bedrock of support as Margaret made her way to the top.
After finally winning a seat in Parliament in 1959, things switch fairly quickly to the early 1970’s. Streep is now Thatcher in both the past and present segments. Having been appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science in Prime Minister Edward Heath’s cabinet, and in her political prime, Tory MP Airey Neave (Nicholas Farrell), and her svengali, the TV guru Gordon Reece (Roger Allam) take her under their wing, helping to turn her into the tough, decisive “Iron Lady” that would dominate British politics for nearly two decades. Elected the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1979, director Phyllida Lloyd (Mama Mia) suggests that Thatcher’s rigidity and contempt for the majority of her colleagues, results in the start of her political decline and the loss of her identity.
The film’s non-linear style will likely confuse many viewers, with no clear explanation of where in time various scenes take place. Further, in just 105 minutes, the filmmakers try to cover a tremendous amount of material. The film touches on three major events during Thatcher’s time in office: the IRA (Airey Neave was killed via car bomb in 1979), the Falklands War, and England’s growing unemployment problem. None of these issues are examined in a deep way, with the filmmakers often using a montage or stock footage to quickly take the audience through an event.
Though Abi Morgan’s storytelling style occasionally falls short, Meryl Streep is wonderful. Breathtakingly nuanced, Streep seems to have mastered Thatcher’s every movement and inflection. Never once overplaying the character, Meryl Streep seems to have become Margaret Thatcher. If for no other reason, The Iron Lady is worth watching just to see the best actress of her generation at work.
Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the 1080p transfer is simply fantastic. Colors are lush throughout and the film design is captured perfectly. Detail and black levels are stunning throughout. I did notice one or two instances of banding, but they were almost too slight to mention.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio is also noteworthy. Dialogue is clean and clear, while music remains a nice, stable presence. Atmospherics are strong and involving, providing a nice background for a non-action film.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
Along with a DVD and Digital Copy of the film, the following special features are included:
- Making The Iron Lady (SD, 12:20): Cast and crew discuss various aspects of the film: the importance of the young Margaret and young Denis, the mother-daughter relationship, and Streep’s performance.
- Recreating the Young Margaret Thatcher (SD, 2:44): A discussion regarding the performance of Alexandra Roach.
- Denis: The Man Behind the Woman (SD, 2:33): A brief look at the work of Actor Jim Broadbent and the part he plays.
- Battle in the House of Commons (SD, 2:28): A brief examination of shooting the Parliament scenes.
- Costume Design: Pearls and Power Suits (SD, 2:43): Costume Designer Consolata Boyle discusses the film’s wardrobe and its evolution throughout the movie.
- History Goes to the Cinema: Featuring My Week with Marilyn, W.E., Coriolanus, The Iron Lady, and The Artist (SD, 18:04): A look at the films and the real life stories behind them.