Anchor Bay | 2010 | 118 mins. | R

Easily one of the best films of 2010, The King’s Speech delivers solid drama and achieves its dramatic potential without sacrificing historical accuracy. Though the story revolves around mid-20th century British royalty, director Tom Hooper and his group of A-list actors has managed to give viewers mainstream accessibility to the characters and their lives. Big and small, there are some astounding performances on display here.

The King's SpeechThe film opens in 1925. The man who will be King George VI (Colin Firth) is now merely Prince Albert. He is referred to as “Bertie” by his family and close friends. His official title is the Duke of York and, because he’s the second son of King George V (Michael Gambon), he is not expected to ascend to the throne because that role will fall to his older brother, Prince Edward (Guy Pearce). Life away from constant scrutiny suits Albert and his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), very well. The couple has no desire to be king and queen. However, there’s a bigger issue: this age of radio presents a unique challenge for the Duke. He is afflicted with a debilitating stammer that hampers his ability to speak publically (and, at times, privately). Albert has seen various doctors in an effort to cure the problem, all to no avail. One day, his wife convinces him to visit Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist known for his unorthodox methods.

An Australian, Logue guarantees that he can help Albert with his problem. The Duke is hesitant to work with someone who so boldly refers to him by his family nickname, Bertie, upon their first meeting; he eventually agrees to Lionel’s demanding manner and begins to see results. When Albert’s father becomes ill and dies, and his older brother David, King Edward VII, abdicates the throne in order to marry the twice-divorced Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), a reluctant Albert is thrust into the role of king as the threat of war with Germany looms.

Though The King’s Speech is a story about how a man not expected to be king overcame a speech impediment to inspire his nation, the real crux of the film is even simpler. This is a drama about a friendship. The uptight and rather stuffy Albert is forced to on a fairly emotional level with the slightly wacky, down-to-earth Lionel. It’s that relationship that makes The King’s Speech such a great film. Screenwriter David Seidler has avoided overly mushy sentimentality and has instead removed the veil on royal life. Albert is revealed to be a person who despite his great wealth, was hurt by events in his childhood and cares deeply for his wife and children. At the same time, he expresses concern over whether he has what it takes to be king.

The acting here is splendid. Firth creates a character so patently cloaked in self-defeating worry that his only clearly identifiable other emotion is rage. Geoffrey Rush seems to have a great time clowning while serving as the future king’s confidant and friend. The only slight disappointment here is Timothy Spall, as a growling Winston Churchill, which is straight caricature. I would recommend all movie fans see The King’s Speech at least once.

The King’s Speech comes to Blu-ray with a solid 1080p transfer. Color quality is especially good: The movie’s greens and blues sparkle with definition and clarity (flesh tones are also handled very well). Grain presence is consistent and inviting, and while there are a few examples of crush, black levels are fairly vivid and inky. I did notice some haloing, but it’s not enough to ruin the film.

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound mix afforded The King’s Speech is appropriate, though not impressive. The sound design here is unassuming; very dialogue-heavy, with a lot of room for sweeping musical score presence, but it’s preserved aptly. Surrounds kick in with atmospherics and Alexandre Desplat’s effective original score nicely, and dynamic range is excellent on this lossless mix.

We get the following special features:

  • Screen Specific Audio Commentary w/ Director Tom Hooper: Hooper is timid yet informational here, as he discusses how certain scenes were shot, the actors, the films themes, etc.
  • · The King’s Speech: An Inspirational Story of an Unlikely Friendship (23:01)
  • · Q&A with the Director & The Cast
  • · Speeches From the Real King George VI, and The Real Lionel Logue
  • The Real Lionel Logue (10.34) – Interview with Mark Logue, Lionel Logue’s grandson and co-author of The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy.
  • The Stuttering Foundation (Public Service Announcement)