The King’s Speech (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Most of us take things for granted. The little things. The ability to see without glasses, or to hear without aid. We worry about the way our skin looks, our hair, what kind of clothes we have on. In fact, there’s so much of a standard that we set for ourselves (and by society) that when someone does have a disability, it seems rather glaring. One of the most obvious things that people can have is a speech impediment. We communicate in many ways, though before cell phones and computers it was all done via the spoken word. What if someone has a stutter? What if they can’t form words fast enough or get caught up trying to communicate their thoughts? This is the premise behind the most current Best Picture winner “The King’s Speech.” It’s the true story of King George VI, heir to a throne that wasn’t really supposed to be his. And in a time that saw the onslaught of World War II, England and all of its principalities needed a leader, someone who could comfort them and let them know where England stood.

Before he was King of England, the Duke of York (Colin Firth) was a Navy hero. He wasn’t the direct heir to the throne, that was his brother (Guy Pearce). On the precipice of the second World War, the country needed a leader and someone that would see England help fight the forces of Hitler. With the dwindling health of King George V (Michael Gambon), the stage was set for King Edward VIII (Pearce) to take the throne. He does, but he’s in love with an American woman who’s been twice divorced in the past. This goes against the Monarchy and if Edward does indeed marry, the throne falls to the next eldest son – George VI. George’s wife, Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) has searched high and low for a speech therapist to help, but to no avail. However it just so happens that she stumbles across Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a set in his ways Australian who’s helped many a soldier recover their speech from Shell Shock. Will Lionel be able to help George VI overcome his stammer or will the ruler of one of the most powerful countries in the world not be able to give his speeches?

“The King’s Speech” emerged victorious out of the ten Best Picture nominees this last year. And the competition included some heavyweights like “Inception”, “The Social Network” and “The Fighter.” Colin Firth earned a well-deserved Oscar for his role as George VI. Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush were also nominated for their roles but both lost out to cast members of “The Fighter.” More to the point, I think the film has increased the awareness of stuttering or speech impediments in general. I’ve been receiving emails from the “Stuttering Foundation of America” (who has a brief commercial on this disc) listing celebrities who have suffered from this ailment. Lastly, I’m usually not a fan of “British” movies in general, but this one was so well-made that it kept my interest going from opening to closing. Firth’s performance is first rate and the story, true to boot, is nearly as inspirational as they come.

Video: How does it look?

“The King’s Speech” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1 AVC HD transfer that looks divine (get the reference?). The image is sharp and crisp throughout, though some of the scenes seem to utilize a shallow focus in which the center of the image is in focus, but the outline is somewhat out of focus. It’s a nice effect that added to the film. The palette used is deliberately muted, with the only real reds being the velvet of the throne. The majority of the film is shot indoors or in the church where greys and blues dominate. Detail is amazing as we can see every wrinkle in Geoffrey Rush’s face, the redness of Firth’s nose and cheeks and every one of Helena Bonham Carter’s curls. On the whole, it’s a nice effort from Anchor Bay who delivers us their first Oscar winner for Best Picture in splendid fashion.

Audio: How does it sound?

Sonically this won’t really rock the house, but “The King’s Speech” does sound pretty good in parts. Towards the opening there’s a speech in which the microphone picks up on every stammer or throat-clearing that the Duke utters. This sound resonates through all the channels and really gives the viewer that they’re right there. Dialogue is obviously of utmost importance and it’s handled with the utmost care. While surrounds are present, they’re not prevalent. All in all, it’s a good soundtrack that’s sure to please.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There are just enough extras on this Blu-ray to warrant a purchase, though I’m sure there are those out there who will see this solely because it won Best Picture. That’s fine and I’m sure Anchor Bay will still take your money. We start out with an audio commentary by Academy Award winning director Tom Hooper who gives us a very detailed track, the origins of the story and some notes about the cast. I’d have liked Bonham Carter, Firth and Rush involved as well but alas, they’re not. There’s a featurette “An Inspiration Story of an Unlikey Friendship” which details the relationship between King George VI and Lionel Logue, which served as the backbone of the story. There’s a Q & A session with the main members of the cast (minus Rush) as well as two speeches from the real King George VI. There’s an audio only segment from 1939 (the “Pre-War” speech) as well as a televised speech from 1946. We get an interview with Lionel Logue’s grandson in “The Real Lionel Logue” who tells of us how he came upon the diaries of his grandfather and their subsequent importance to the story. Finally we get a 1 minute commercial for the Stuttering Foundation.

Disc Scores