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The Iron Lady(2011)
Biopic starring Meryl Streep in an Oscar-winning performance as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher's life and political career are portrayed in flashback from the perspective of her later years as she struggles with Alzheimer's disease and grieves for her recently-deceased husband, Dennis (Jim Broadbent). The film traces her life from her childhood years in the family grocer's shop through to her graduation from Oxford, her early working life and her decision to enter politics. Her eleven-year stint in office is marked not only by her strictly conservative and hard-nosed leadership style, which earn her the nickname 'The Iron Lady', but also by spending cuts, strikes, the introduction of an unpopular poll tax and the Falklands War.
For more about The Iron Lady and the The Iron Lady Blu-ray release, see the The Iron Lady Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 31, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, Alexandra Roach, Harry Lloyd, Iain Glen
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
» See full cast & crew
The Iron Lady Blu-ray Review
As an advertisement made popular in Thatcher's heyday asks, "where's the beef?"
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 31, 2012
One's life must matter.
The Iron Lady flip-flops between a senile and hallucinatory elder Lady Thatcher (Meryl Streep) and a quick, confident young woman and Prime Minster of years prior and hailing from a world that's socially and technologically different but politically familiar. Despite an uneven narrative, the picture largely gels and flows effortlessly, easily switching between timeframes but favoring the tale of the elder Thatcher as she reflects on her past and combats her state in the present, the film usually glossing over her accomplishments in Conservative politics in rapid-fire succession. But its technical construction is not at question. The Iron Lady is at best a decent, though not powerful, biopic of arguably the most powerful female world leader of the 20th century. The subject deserves a fuller, more thorough, and thoughtful picture, not a mere scattershot glimpse into an important and engaging life. Still, the picture is well-made and often compelling because of its subject and quick pace and despite its short attention span. The performances are excellent and the direction steady. It's a fine and polished film, stylistically, but it falls somewhat short, contextually.
Margaret Thatcher lives a simple life, eating eggs and bread, buying milk from a small grocer. She slips in and out of the store unnoticed by either the clerk or her fellow customers. She comes home to armed guards and the spirit of her long-deceased husband Denis (Jim Broadbent). Her living daughter Carol (Olivia Colman) urges her to seek help. Thatcher denies her hallucinations, evident though they may be to those closest to her. With a deadly bombing the news of the day, Thatcher recalls life during the Blitz, her acceptance to Oxford, marriage to Denis, and initial drive towards politics, a world dominated by men with little tolerance for her and her meager background, despite an Oxford education and obvious intelligence. She further recalls her steadfastness in political life, holding true to her pro-business, pro-self sufficinecy Conservative values. She looks back on her first Parliamentary victory in 1959 and rise through the ranks of the Conservative party and on through her ascendancy to the position of Prime Minister where she faced social, economic, and diplomatic pressures, including a conflict in the Falkland Islands and IRA terrorist attacks.
As the film opens, one cannot help but marvel at a depiction of a society where an elder icon goes unrecognized by the world around her as she herself struggles to understand the world in which she goes unrecognized. That's the film in a nutshell, really, the effort to depict Thatcher as someone who was -- and remains -- somehow detached from her world, both socially and politically, whether fitting in as a woman in a male-dominated political arena, forging her own path as Prime Minister, or surviving as an elderly woman largely removed from the political spotlight while struggling with the ill effects of old age. And those are the motions through which the film's bulk maneuvers. It barely paints the picture of a young Margaret surviving the Nazi Blitz and only scratches the surface of her early decision to enter and subsequent foray into politics. The picture spends more substantive flashback time on the gender conflict than it does policy, at least in her early days. Streep's steadfastness in portraying the character holding her ground during a tense exchange in Parliament where she's criticized as much for her "shrill voice" as she is her politics does paint her in a more flattering, sturdy light, reflecting the character's "never be anything but yourself" mantra. Streep largely handles the role with class and precision, though she sometimes seems to simply regurgitate her Julia Child accent, even as she's otherwise hidden behind superb makeup and wardrobe. It's a quality performance in which the legendary actress melts into the part, but as far as the year's finest performances and greatest physical and emotional transformations go, Rooney Mara's proves the better.
The Iron Lady dazzles with its many period recreations. Whether modern day London, the nation as it was during Thatcher's reign as Prime Minister, the years prior as a member of Parliament, or her early years during and immediately following World War II, the picture paints a visually compelling and seemingly accurate physical picture of the nation. Costumes and set design are faultless, and even the integration and occasional merging of make believe and real life footage flows largely without hitch. Director Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!) manages to maintain flow even through a split narrative and questionable thematic angle, a difficult task, particularly considering that the picture has placed its priorities backwards, telling the story of a disturbed elderly woman with only a casual look back at her policies that helped put an end to the Cold War, amongst other accomplishments, which are given at best cursory mention or attention in the film. Thatcher's political career merely serves as a template for the display of the disturbed elder Thatcher, a curious choice for a character of such prominence. There seems to be no point to the movie, then, other than to perhaps put into question her politics against an undercurrent of absentmindedness. The film's narrative falls absolutely flat, with no depth and no compelling characters, even as its subject is one of the most compelling of the century.
The Iron Lady Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Iron Lady's 1080p high definition transfer is the embodiment of Blu-ray perfection. Though the image favors colors that are naturally cold and slightly muted, it still presents bright blue dresses, red lipstick, and other assorted hues strongly, particularly contrasted against the slightly gray backdrop. Flesh tones reflect that slightly harsh and cold appearance but black levels remain true and deep, but never to the detriment of surrounding details. General object detail is wonderful. Skin and clothing textures are remarkably natural, while surrounding object detail impresses in every scene. The image enjoys unbeatable clarity and accuracy, a solid sense of depth, and natural sharpness. Light grain provides a positively handsome film-like texture. The image suffers from no apparent bouts of edge enhancement, banding, or blockiness. Though some viewers may wish for more color brilliance, there's no denying this is a natural, source-accurate, and pristine Blu-ray transfer from Anchor Bay. The result is one of the best cinematic presentations on the market today.
The Iron Lady Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Iron Lady's splendid DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack succeeds no matter the moment, environment, or sonic style. The track delivers fine, natural ambience in the early modern day scenes, whether in the form of background music inside a grocery store or vehicles zipping past outside of it. The surround channels are used naturally but not aggressively. A cacophony of whirring appliances and blaring radios as heard in chapter nine naturally surrounds the listener in the brief moment of sonic confusion, and beachside ambience plays evenly in chapter five. Music plays smoothly and efficiently, with good spacing and natural clarity, whether quieter notes or the heavier elements heard, for instance, during Thatcher's first session in Parliament. The track delivers a good, positive low end when bombs fall during the World War II segment or during a terrorist attack later in the film. Dialogue is firm and clear, focused straight up the middle. This is a quality soundtrack from Anchor Bay.
The Iron Lady Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Iron Lady contains six supplemental features. DVD and digital copy discs are also included.
The Iron Lady Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Margret Thatcher's family is said to be disappointed with the Prime Minsiter's portrayal in The Iron Lady. Whatever their own reasons may be, it's clear even to an outsider that the film fails to prioritize its narrative, telling a story of an aged, senile, and hallucinatory Thatcher and only glossing over her political career and accomplishments. The story as-is would have been better served with a more generic character as the lead rather than masquerade as a Biopic. It's a shame, because the movie is technically well made and the framework is in place for a compelling story, but for whatever reason the entire thing falls flat as it focuses on a battle with old age with a few snapshots of one of the most important historical figures of the 20th century thrown in for, well, not for good measure, that's for sure. Cinema needs a more thorough telling of Thatcher's tale; The Iron Lady is at best a tease. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of The Iron Lady features stunning video, first-rate lossless audio, and a few standard definition extras. Worth a rental.
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The Iron Lady Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: April 10-17 - April 9, 2012
Given the renewed attention that last year's Hugo brought to Georges Méličs, it is fitting that this week sees the Blu-ray release of the early-cinema pioneer's A Trip to the Moon, the silent classic that figured so prominently in Martin Scorsese's Academy Award-winning ...
• Exclusive Giveaway: The Iron Lady - April 1, 2012
Blu-ray.com and the Weinstein Company are offering three Blu-ray.com members the opportunity to win a copy of director Phyllida Lloyd's Margaret Thatcher biopic, The Iron Lady, starring Best Actress winner Meryl Streep. The film arrives on April 10th.
• The Iron Lady Blu-ray - February 8, 2012
In April, Anchor Bay Home Entertainment will bring The Iron Lady to Blu-ray. The film showcases acclaimed actress Meryl Streep (Adaptation), who gives an Academy Award-nominated performance as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Directed by Phyllida ...
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