Review: The King's Speech

(M) *****

Director: Tom Hooper.

Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall.

THE awards are already piling up around Colin Firth for his turn in The King's Speech, and well they should because this is the greatest performance of his career and a stunning display of acting skill.

Perfectly inhabiting the stammering royal who would become King George VI, Firth brings humanity, intensity and frustration to the role as we follow him from his awkward early public appearances as the Duke of York through to his first defining speech as a war-time monarch.

While King George's speech impediment may not seem the most enthralling of subjects for a film, it becomes one thanks to an insightful script that focuses on the relationship between the king and his unorthodox Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Rush).

Their patchy and at-times fiery friendship is ultimately touching and drives the movie. It's dealt with in a typically filmic way - Logue is the Mr Miyagi to the king's Daniel-san, complete with strange techniques and a montage sequence - but it's entirely engrossing thanks to the robust performances and intriguing characters. Rush is note-perfect with the dry Aussie wit and antipodean cheek, and Firth disappears entirely into the role, ensuring his character is first and foremost a real person, battling a personal demon... but he just happens to be a king.

The stellar supporting cast is uniformly excellent, from Bonham Carter as the king's supportive wife Elizabeth to bit parts from Pearce (King Edward VIII), Gambon (King George V) and Spall (Winston Churchill), and David Seidler's script sparkles as a result. But such is the power in Rush and Firth's performances that you can't wait until they're on-screen next.

Historical context adds some supreme dynamic punch, taking in the abdication of Edward VIII and the prelude to World War II, plus the film looks exquisite, moving easily from the stately royal grandeur to the more humble homes of the commoners.

A wonderfully well-rounded dramatic piece, with excellent comic touches, this is a must-see film thanks to the skills of Firth and Rush.

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