The King's Speech

The King's Speech (2010)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham-Carter, Michael Gambon, Guy Pearce
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Q&A Session, Archival Footage

"The King's Speech" arrives with a lot of acclaim, naturally. Glowing reviews and a series of awards have been bestowed upon the movie that is now arriving in high definition, courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. I have not had the chance to see the film in theaters, so this release was particularly interesting to me, to judge for myself how the film stands up to its ovations.

Prince Albert (Colin Firth), the Duke of York, grows up in the shadow of his brother Edward (Guy Pearce). While their father, King George V (Michael Gambon), reigned England and did his best to prepare both boys for their futures in the spotlight, Albert always knows that Edward will become their father's successor and that he will never be the center of attention. It suits him very well because he has an impediment that causes him to shy away from public appearances — he stammers.

When it becomes an issue and the public begins to notice, Albert and his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter) begin to seek out therapies. But one after the other fails. No doctor seems to be able to cure the royal prince of his infliction. As a last resort, Elizabeth turns to Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a man of dubious reputation in the medical community, but with proven results.

Using his unorthodox approach, which includes calling His Royal Highness by his first name to make them equals, Logue tries to prove to the prince that his impediment is purely mental and not a motoric problem. But as progress is slow, his father passes away and his brother in the process of destroying the monarchy, Albert stops his speech therapy sessions, outraged by Logue's incredible audacity.

When his brother abdicates the throne and Albert suddenly becomes King of England — taking the name King George VI — it is required of him to speak in public on frequent occasions, including radio addresses. Scared witless he turns back to Logue and throws himself into the therapies, eager to restore the trust and regal appearances of the country's royal family. His biggest challenge comes when he needs to talk to the country and rally them to protect their homes at the onset of World War II.

"The King's Speech" is a very quiet film, one that has more emotion and personal drama than action. Wonderfully atmospheric — and bleak when required — the movie manages to faithfully show us how hard the circumstances surrounding Prince Albert were and how committed he was to his heritage. At the same time, it shows him as a human being who is shackled by his royal blood but tries to make the best of it for himself and his family, including their tow daughters, Margaret and the current Queen of England, Elizabeth.

Wonderfully portrayed and acted, "The King's Speech" is a marvelous film, there can be no doubt, and wholly enjoyable. However, the story lacks a bit of punch, perhaps, and, while impressive, I do not fully share the sentiment that this is an Academy Award-winning movie. Colin Firth's portrayal was solid and touching, but truly Oscar worthy? I am not sure… compare that to something like "Schindler's List" and you see a clear gap there… Don't get me wrong, I like the film a lot, but I also think it has been riding quite a bit on a wave of euphoria.

The Blu-Ray version that Anchor Bay has delivered here is a true blessing. With a 1080p high definition transfer that is riveting and exhibits wonderful detail throughout, this presentation adds even more depth to the overall experience. Kept in dark colors at times, the transfer ensures proper delineation of all the details in the image, including the most subtle textures and highlights. Edges are incredibly sharp without looking exaggerated, giving this release an impressive high definition look. Black levels are solid throughout and colors are naturally rendered at all times.

The release features a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track that creates a balanced presentation with solid ambient sound effects and nicely integrated dialogue. This track is not overly spatial and surround usage is limited, but overall it shows just how much even a restrained surround mix can impress.

The disc contains a commentary track by director Tom Hooper who goes into quite some detail about the making of the movie and its roots in real life history. Engaging and full of insight, the track is well worth checking out, as is the Making-of featurette that is also included on the disc.

You will also find a Q&A session with the director and actor Colin Firth on the disc. For those interested in the real life origins of the movie actual archival footage of the real King George VI are also included on the release, as well as info about the real Lionel Logue.

"The King's Speech" is a rock solid release that shines like a crown jewel. Whether you've seen the movie and loved it, or whether this will be your first audience with the King, this Bl-Ray version is wonderful and should be considered a must-buy.