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The King’s Speech

There are times when it’s not unfair to accuse actors of coasting along in a role.  Playing the same characters with each movie, such performers tend to stick to their thespian comfort zones with agonizing stubbornness.  Then there’s Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush – two actors always daring to be different.  They certainly are with The King’s Speech working very well due to their intuitive and lively renditions of men bought together in unlikely circumstances.
 

When King George V (Michael Gambon) passes away and his brother King Edward (Guy Pearce) suddenly abdicates the throne, Bertie (Colin Firth) is unexpectedly made the United Kingdom’s new King.  Unfortunately he has a speech impediment – an affliction not inspiring confidence in a public about to go to war.  Sensing he needs help, his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) enlists the services of eccentric Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).  Forming a close alliance, the two very different gentlemen would help galvanise a nation towards the dark days ahead.
 

Sublimely directed by Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech easily fits the ‘uplifting film’ label.  That isn’t to say it is saccharine sweet – just an affirming tale in gaining self-confidence.  Burdened not only with various family dramas but also with an emotionally debilitating disability, Bertie’s anguish is often painful to view.  With Lionel’s help, these shackles of nerves would mostly be undone and give him the strength needed to become the King both know he can be.  Their ability to confide in each other also enables him to deal with the looming threat of war.
 

It’s simple pin-pointing why The King’s Speech works so well as the performances are first class.  Everyone brings genuine dignity to their roles and of the situation doing justice to their real-life counterparts.  Firth especially makes Bertie a very sympathetic character facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  Whilst the script over-does the expected emotional jabs a little, its story enables one to be swept away as it astutely presents the Royals as suffering from the same foibles as their subjects.
 

Already a hit with critics, the Oscar whispers surrounding it aren’t for nothing.  The King’s Speech is an insightful study in the power of believing in oneself and further aids the motif that true-life stories are always the most fascinating.
 

Rating out of 10:  9

Devil

With a poster proclaiming its story is from the ‘mind of M. Night Shyamalan’, it’s easy to become afraid of Devil for all the wrong reasons.  Shyamalan hasn’t the best of genre reputations as several directorial works have been unbearably awful.  Viewers can breathe a sigh of relief with Devil as he has only written its story.  Marketed as the first part of his ‘Night Chronicles Trilogy’, it’s a fairly decent effort in conjuring the psychological terror from which Shyamalan made his name with The Sixth Sense.
 

Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) is called to the scene of an apparent suicide.  Whilst investigating it, he hears of five people trapped in an elevator.  They include Vince (Geoffrey Arend) and Sarah (Bojana Novakovic).  Relying on each other to maintain their sanity while it’s being fixed, they discover evil is among them.  Burdened with their own personal demons, their shock at learning Satan himself is among them intensifies their battle for survival as he fiendishly throws some astounding surprises their way.
 

It’s ironic one of the few films he doesn’t direct is one of Shyamalan’s better ones.  Providing interest is its urban location as many horror films are usually set in isolated surrounds.   Whilst an elevator could be construed as its own prison, the five protagonist’s individual desperation compounds their sense of personal seclusion.   Like Satan’s wicked trickery, Devil’s deceptive narrative riff borrows heavily not from other similar movies but from Agatha Christie.  Based on ‘And Then There Were None’, there are plenty of red herrings to decipher with an ending much like the one from her masterly tome.
 

Adding to this enjoyable ‘whodunit’ type angle is a brisk pace allowing for the character’s traits to be efficiently bought to the surface.  Managing to make each a likely suspect for initiating such deadly games, the nicely generated suspense keeps events percolating with genuine tension.  There isn’t any gore to be found which heightens the menacing atmosphere as the script takes a more inventive route in crafting its scares. 
 

After a string of box office bombs, Devil manages to salvage some of Shyamalan’s standing.  Focussed and populated with characters you care about, maybe he should stick to writing instead of directing if he wants to receive more critical bouquets than unwanted brick-bats.
 

Rating out of 10:  7