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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Colin Firth
Geoffrey Rush
Helena Bonham Carter
Guy Pearce.
Directors
Tom Hooper.
Screenwriters
David Seidler.
Running Time
118 minutes

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The King's Speech
Bromancing the throne


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Plot
Prince George (Firth), known as Bertie to loved ones, has been afflicted by a debilitating stammer since his childhood. And when his brother abdicates the throne and war looms, he reluctantly turns to Aussie Lionel Logue (Rush), a speech therapist whose methods are unconventional to say the least.


Review
The King's Speech
Some films turn out to be unexpectedly good. Not that you’ve written them off, only they ply their craft on the hush-hush. Before we even took our seats, Inception had trailed a blaze of its cleverness the size of a Parisian arrondissement. We were ready to be dazzled. If you had even heard of it, Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech looked no more than well-spoken Merchant Ivoriness optimistically promoted from Sunday teatime: decent cast, nice costumes, posh carpets. That was until the film finished a sneak-peak at a festival in deepest America, and the standing ovations began. Tweeters, bloggers and internet spokespeople of various levels of elocution announced it the Oscar favourite, and this also-ran arrives in our cinemas in a fanfare of trumpets.

But for all its pageantry, it isn’t a film of grandiose pretensions. Much better than that, it is an honest-to-goodness crowdpleaser. Rocky with dysfunctional royalty. Good Will Hunting set amongst the staid pageantry and fussy social mores of the late ’30s. The Odd Couple roaming Buckingham Palace. A film that will play and play. A prequel to The Queen.

Where lies its success? Let’s start with the script, by playwright David Seidler, a model for transforming history into an approachable blend of drama and wit. For a film about being horrendously tongue-tied, Seidler’s words are exquisitely measured, his insight as deep as it is softly spoken. Both an Aussie and a long-suffering stammerer, he first adapted the story as a play, written with the permission of both the late Queen Mother (George’s wife) and Logue’s widow. Stretching into the legroom of film, he loses none of the theatrical richness of allowing decent actors to joust and jostle and feed off each other.

As their two worlds clash, this outspoken “colonial” and this unspoken aristocrat, Seidler mines great humour from the situation. Logue’s outlandish treatments are designed to rock George, whom he insists on calling Bertie (the impertinence!), out of his discomfort zone. He has to lie on the floor, his dainty wife perched upon his chest, strengthening his diaphragm. He has to swing his arms like a chimpanzee, warble like a turkey. And in a sure-to-be classic scene, Logue cracks the dam of his patient’s cornered voice by getting him swearing. “Say the ‘F’ word,” commands Rush, his eyes twinkling at Logue’s front. “Fornication!” howls Firth, like a man bursting. Such naughtiness — escalating to a magnificent chorus of “shits” and “fucks” — landed the film an R rating in America. The silly-billies: the moment couldn’t be more tender or uplifting.

What Hooper sensed of Seidler’s play is that this is not about fixing a voice, but fixing a mind bullied by his father (a waxen-voiced Michael Gambon as George V) and brother since boyhood, a soul imprisoned by the burden of forthcoming kingliness. Between his handsome London backdrops, elevating any potential staginess with sleek forward motion and microscopic historical accuracy (from mist-occluded parks, to the Tardis-sprawl of the BBC’s broadcasting paraphernalia with the death-noose of their microphones), Hooper plays on the idea of childhood. We meet Logue’s scruffy brood and the twee Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret; while in another scene loaded with codified meaning, George begins to open up as he gently completes a model plane. The tragedy is that he never had a childhood. Friendship is a voyage into the unknown for Bertie. Logue is gluing him together.

Hooper, whose own mother recommended the play, knew straightaway here was his cornerstone — the unlikeliest of friendships. To get all zeitgeist on its royal behind, it’s a bromance. One that required two performers to go to opposite places. Colin Firth has found a rich vein of form: A Single Man provided emotional entrapment in repressed grief, but here were greater perils still, treading the perilous high-wire of physical affliction. In terror of mockery or Rainman, he looked to Derek Jacobi’s definitive stammering in I Claudius (Jacobi winkingly cast here as a conniving Archbishop Of Canterbury) and got to grips with an actor’s greatest fear — being unable to find his words. It’s a bristling irony: acting is a craft exemplified in the crystal-clear diction of Shakespeare, but here is a gripping performance where the actor is virtually incapable of speaking at all. Not in a straight line. It is an anti-acting role, yet Firth doesn’t ever stop communicating: pain, sadness, yearning; intelligence and humour demanding escape; and the fierce self-possession of a man born to privilege. When Logue, pushing and pushing, oversteps the mark, Bertie rounds on him, furious, his voice suddenly eloquent in the spate of his fury. The idea of class is never far away; what marks out one’s place in the social network of yesteryear more than how one speaks?

Logue, a psychotherapist before his time (a royal in therapy — the very thought!), finds Rush in equally fine fettle. He locates Logue’s own shortcomings, a failed actor who turns his office into a stage, striding and pontificating, a show-off with a big heart. A modernist trying to break through social prejudice. A colonial nobody desperate to be an English somebody. Stripped walls line Logue’s drafty chambers: the deprivations of pre-War Britain are here, yet warmed by family. The cushioned train of anterooms of Buckingham Palace appear antiseptic in comparison. Life crushed by velvet. Grimacing Whitehall serving as a cold reminder of war to come.

Any behind-the-drapes depictions of British royalty carry the base pleasures of a good snoop. But these were changing times. Helena Bonham Carter makes for a vibrant Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mum-to-be), both devoted wife and teasing wit whirling around the word “contraverseeal” like a figure skater, another modernist in a dusty enclave who takes the risk of contacting Logue. If anything, older brother Edward VIII was the true trailblazer, breaking through the bars of royal absolutes to marry American divorcee Mrs. Simpson, and unthinkably vacate the throne for his timorous brother. In that decision, precedents were shattered and the modern world spilled into the royal household. Guy Pearce (an Aussie in English robes) has enormous fun as the arrogant older sibling, plumbing his voice to the borders of camp, but a flash harry flinty enough to shed a nation for a wife. As George will angrily point out, what use does a king serve anymore?

If we start small, a lonely prince trying to express himself, we end big. History knocks the door down. Edward abdicates just as that unquenchable ranter Hitler gets warmed up, and Timothy Spall drops by as a slippery Churchill (a jar to the film’s subtleties) to sneer about oncoming “Nazzzeees”. A sense of terrible urgency engulfs the therapy, but what an ending it offers. George VI must use his faltering voice to soothe a frightened nation in a radio broadcast, all but conducted by Logue, transformed into match-winning glory. You’ll be lost for words.


Verdict
Think the blazing joys of Chariots Of Fire where the race is to the end of a sentence. Can it be that the British are coming?


Reviewed by Ian Nathan


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The King's Speech
Empire Star Rating

Finally, the stutterers received the respect they deserve in a Royal and Magnificent way!

When I heard about this movie I realy got anxious to see him, but I couldn't. Then I heard that it had been nominated for the Oscars, and later won 4 including Best Picture. At the time that I was sad about it (especially because Inception had also been nominated). But months went by and I finally could see the movie ... and the oscar was more than deserved! "The King's Speech" is a simply powerful movie in every detail. Tom Hooper manages to give a fantastic direction in the film, an... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ralph25 at 23:12, 11 April 2013 | Report This Post


Simply Marvelous

This was a truly wonderful film. Handsomely shot, brilliantly performed, and written with the ever-so-slightest flick of the genius wrist. Hooper, Firth, Rush, Carter, and Seidler all deserved their many commendations For a masterful film with real heart. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Kramer Bozco at 05:42, 04 June 2012 | Report This Post


This has got to be an all time classic! So good! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JFS at 14:00, 01 June 2012 | Report This Post


This has got to be an all time classic! So good! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JFS at 14:00, 01 June 2012 | Report This Post


The King's Speech

An ensemble of brillant actors, an amazing cinematography, and an emotional story makes for a period drama like no other. Simply astonishing. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 14:36, 30 May 2012 | Report This Post


ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL !!!

This Film Was Simply Suberb, Captivated From The First Minute, And Didn't Fade Out Of It Once. Colin Firth And Geoffrey Rush Were Fantastic Together And Some Scenes Just Blew Me Away. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ryanchallenger at 23:03, 01 March 2012 | Report This Post


The King's Speech Review

Colin Firth gives a masterful performance in The King's Speech, a predictable but stylishly produced and rousing period drama. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 01:54, 29 February 2012 | Report This Post


Good

but not 5 star good. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by pounamuknight at 08:45, 28 November 2011 | Report This Post


Arise Sir Colin!

Well his done it again Colin Firth was brilliant in this film as was the rest of the cast. Geoffrey Rush needs a special mention as he nearly stole the show from its leading man. Helena Bonham Carter was believeable and effective playing the Queen Mom. The film looked amazing and the directing was superb. Well done Tom Hooper for your Oscar! However I still think Colin should of won the Oscar for A SIngle Man! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by richiebrum1974 at 21:13, 20 October 2011 | Report This Post


Colin Firth Performance in this Movie is just Brilliant ! Also Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush good Performance's as well. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by soulfood at 21:06, 01 October 2011 | Report This Post


The Kings Speech

I work in a cinema as a projectionist and this is the one film that passed me by... Not that I didn’t want to see it.... I love Geoffrey Rush, find him amazing in every film is see I also love Guy Pearce; the man needs more parts.... lead ones preferably. Colin Firth recently impressed me with a single man... But I just missed it... So when I saw it for £8 in Sainsbury, it seemed daft not to get it...and. Well I thought it was good I wanted to like it more th... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kirk at 14:36, 16 May 2011 | Report This Post


Wonderful

This is simply wonderful and Colin Firth is absoloutly brilliant and it deserved all of it's awards, but my heart still goes to Inception fr Best Picture. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 16:06, 15 May 2011 | Report This Post


Superb

I don't want to get into the politics of whether it should have won as much as it did on Oscar night, so I'll just focus on the film's merits. The King's Speech is a towering achievement, and one of the most enjoyable dramas of recent times. It's fantastically shot, the acting is wonderful (with the exception of Guy Ritchie, needlessly dragging the movie down) , and the script is incomparable. Truly a marvellous film, and well worth the hype. A definite watch ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 22:52, 29 April 2011 | Report This Post


RE: The King’s Speech

Caution: This review contains spoilers Stammering, stuttering and completely stunning. This film is one of the rare few that has a story, direction and performances that speak for themselves. Since watching The Blind Side, a whole two years ago, I have been waiting for another film to come along that combined all of its ingredients together in a perfect mix to make you leave the cinema thinking: wow. It was on January 10th 2011, when I wandered down to my local cinema to watch a film ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Johnny Major at 10:46, 28 April 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Oscar friendly

L: blindlemonpie Made specifically to tick all the Oscar boxes. sp; Erm, it was independently made and marketed, and only opened in selected theatre`s, hardly looking to tick or tickle Oscar was it? ... More

Posted by JohnChard at 19:13, 11 March 2011 | Report This Post


Worth the hype

Seen it at last, and now I understand why this film has entered the stratosphere. Yes great acting, yes very well-made, but the thing that strikes home by the end is how IMPORTANT it was at the time. Makes the journey brilliantly compelling. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 18:56, 08 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: The King’s Speech

Director: per Screenwriter: eidler Starring: irth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Derek Jacobi Synopsis Based on the true story of King George VI of Britain (Firth), his impromptu ascension to the throne and peculiar friendship with the speech therapist Lionel Logue (Rush) who helped the unsure monarch. Review Three months have passed since its UK release; it has become a British sensation and has won four Oscars, including Best Pictu... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 18:08, 08 March 2011 | Report This Post


Oscar friendly

Made specifically to tick all the Oscar boxes. Great vehicle for the actors but personally find it hard the emphathise with one of the worlds richest and most powerful men "struggling" to cure his speech impediment whilst men and woman were being killed over Europe. What's next, Prince Charles struggling to cope with his receding hairline........ ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blindlemonpie at 19:23, 07 March 2011 | Report This Post


3.5 stars

I don't think its bad at all - just not the mastrpiece it's being held up as - when the hype dies down and this film most certainly has been hyped -this could end up on the forgotten list like so many other winners - It's definately an oscar film - I'm not sure artisticly how much that's really worth. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 23:45, 06 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: 3.5 STARS OUT OF 5

I went in to this expecting a pretty good film with a good performance, I came out with possibly a new favorite movie. This was beautifuly made, but it was the bromance between Firth and Rush that made this such a joy to watch. I was watching the whole way through with a smile on my face. Such a simple story but so moving. Brilliant. 10/10 ... More

Posted by Coyleone at 14:42, 04 March 2011 | Report This Post


3.5 STARS OUT OF 5

It's just won the best picture oscar - is this the best film I've seen this year? - It's not the best film I've seen this week. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 15:54, 01 March 2011 | Report This Post


We associate past images with black and white, and The King's speech deliberatly drained of colour and beautiful costume recreates a foggy 1930's England in a state of uncertainty. Tensions of a foreign threat in Hitler's Germany is rarely the focus, yet the films final third and climatic speech build like a cup final. The two leads are excellent particularly the likeable Rush as Logue. Bonham-Carter as good and sterdy as always. Firth never overplays. The film bristles with confident humo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by gzus at 15:35, 27 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: The King’s Speech

]The gift of cinema does credit to the gift of speech./align]]The King`s Speech is directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler. It stars Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Derek Jacobi & Michael Gambon. Music is by Alexandre Desplat and photography is by Danny Cohen. The idea for the film came about after Seidler read about how King George VI (Firth) overcame his stammer after a friendship was formed with his voice coach Lionel Logue (Rush).... More

Posted by JohnChard at 23:27, 25 February 2011 | Report This Post


tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1504320/]The King`s Speechf course I had to see th� big Oscar favoriet of this season before the handing out of the little golden guys takes place. It`s not the most exciting or surprising film that you`re gonna see this year. But you can`t deny the pure quality with wich it is made. That is the downside as well as the good thing about it: it`s very solid (and maybe boring in that aspect) but it`s very well made. The costumes are beautiful, the music is nice a... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 22:34, 24 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Royally Brilliant

Saw this yesterday, and much as I am loathe to jump on the band wagon, yes, it is rather brilliant. One thing that struck me in particular(aside form the superb performances), was the ending.SPOILER TO FOLLOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SPOLIER TO FOLLOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think it says something about a film, when you turn the beginning of World War II into an almost feel good moment. Anyone who has seen this will know the point I'm making. Despite... More

Posted by film man aidy at 11:37, 24 February 2011 | Report This Post


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