Early January release date... esteemed British cast... wartime setting... There's a very good chance that The King's Speech might be the most Bafta-iest movie ever made. It's tailor made to appeal to lovers of classic British cinema and contains all the elements needed to have the British film industry falling over each other to praise it.
Unlike most other British films corralled into the same awards-friendly release slot, The King's Speech is actually very good - it's certainly an entertaining enough film that'll adequently represent the Brits when we inevitably lose at the Oscars.
Colin Firth - officially the British candidate for the 'He Wuz Robbed Award' as he was for last year's A Single Man
- plays King George VI aka Bertie, the mild-mannered royal thrust into the throne when his mad Dad dies and his wantaway brother jogs on to knob some American bird called Marge Simpson or something. Bertie's problems aren't limited to those typically found in royal biopics (familial in-fighting, jealousy, class wars etc), because he has a cinema-friendly disability too: a horrendous stammer.
Through various trips to Australian therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush in cheeky chappie mode), Bertie gradually learns to untwist his tongue, conquer his fears and become the King the country needs as they inch closer to war. It's pretty cut-and-shut and you're never in any doubt that The King's Speech will splutter, but it's well written, well paced and Firth nails a role that could have felt saccharine in less capable hands. The fact that Bertie is frequently an ass actually adds to his charm; the temptation to make him a bumbling, Hugh Grant-esque fop is never entertained.
There's top support work to flank Firth as he drives towards Buckingham Palace in his Oscar vehicle (beep beep), with Guy Pearce adopting a flawless porsh accent as Bertie's brother, King Edward, while HBC gives Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon aka The Queen Mum a spark that suggests she was a bit of a goer (try not to think of that when picturing her in her later years). The only real bum note is Timothy Spall's caricature of Winston Churchill, which came across a bit too 'Jon Culshaw' to be taken too seriously.
In the same vein as Stephen Frears' The Queen, it's not quite the world-beating effort the British film press might have you thinking it is, but it's a perfectly functional, frequently enjoyable biopic that knows the right buttons to push and has all the right people pushing them. It'll have Baftas coming out of its arse, just you watch.