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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Historic > Biopic > Politics > UK > Britain > Neo-Conservatism > The Iron Lady (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)

The Iron Lady (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)


Picture: B/C+     Sound: B-/C+     Extras: C+     Film: C+



Though a heroine to some, many (maybe most) consider Prime Minster (and now Baroness) Margaret Thatcher a problematic historical figure.  The longest running U.K. PM in the 20th Century, she and Ronald Reagan are considered the Neo-Conservative duo who destroyed the financial and industrial infrastructures of their respective countries and declared war on the poor and helpless.  Some try to say they “won” The Cold War, but that is a very problematic, controversial position, so when I heard a film was being made about Thatcher, I was skeptical.  Phyllida Lloyd’s The Iron Lady (2011) tries and fails to overcome the situation.


Meryl Streep plays Thatcher from main adult to elderly years (Alexandra Roach is underrated as the younger adult Thatcher) and the Abi Morgan (of the terrific BBC mini-series The Hour, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) screenplay knows the problem and tries a strategy that does not always work or help.  We join Thatcher as an older elderly woman who is tired and sadly suffering from dementia, escaping the watch of government caretakers enough to slip out and buy a pint of milk at a local grocery store.


Returning safely, all are in shock this happened, but she is talking to her husband Denis (another great Jim Broadbent performance) who we find out has already passed away.  She is that sick and lonely.  In this, we see al the events “safely” in flashback and this includes the trivialization of too many of them and under the slippery veil of the Forrest Gump strategy that allows for a lack of accountability to history, facts, truth or any other kind of responsibility.


Streep is definitely earning her Academy Award in a solid performance that sometimes resembles Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest when it is about “the face” as she is elected PM, while the “power years” have some shades of Evita (musical, Madonna film and other non-musical versions) as it is still so rare a woman gets this kind of power anywhere.  Pacing stops the film from pitfalls those films may have had, yet the script is just too one-sided throughout in the name of telling her story, also placing it into the non-political problems all biopics have had since sound arrived in Hollywood.


The overall film has a flat ending, wants us to feel sorry for a woman whose damage of the U.K. and the world economy is still with us and the biopic angle wants to nearly treat her as if she is angelic.  That “old lady” cliché displayed here (i.e., oh, let’s feel sorry for her) contradicts her own status the title of this film and her nickname indicates, but not with any irony in the process.  Of course, you could get the other side of the story quickly by simply listening to Pink Floyd’s anti-Thatcher album The Final Cut (1983) for starters, but this is a much more complicated historical figure as part of a much more complex point in history and The Iron Lady throws too much of it out to work as an overall film.  Streep saves the picture.

Cheers also to performances by Iain Glen, Harry Lloyd, Nicholas Farrell, Anthony Head, Richard E. Grant, Michael Pennington and the sly inclusion of Jeremy Child as one of the many male cabinet ministers.  Of course, there were female ministers if only few, but we do not see many of them, so the very fact that they are excluded shows this is too often Thatcher’s re accounting and not what happened, which hurts the film in the long run.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer may have some stylized choices and stock analog video footage throughout, but there are enough solid shots for this to be a fine HD performer and I was a little more impressed than expected.  You get some nice shots, some good detail and even good color.  Director of Photography Elliot Davis (Twilight, Soderbergh’s Out Of Sight and King Of The Hill) shot the film in the Super 35mm film format and delivers his best work in years.  He is an underrated cinematographer and this Blu-ray really shows it.  The anamorphically enhanced DVD version seems more faded by comparison and not as impressive.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is dialogue-based and can have its moments of quiet, so surrounds are limited to music and sound effects, but it is still a good mix for the kind of film being made.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is weaker and lacks the warmth or smoothness of the DTS-MA.


Extras include Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, a Making Of featurette and four additional featurettes: Recreating The Young Margaret Thatcher, Battle In The House Of Commons, Costume Design: Pearls & Power Suits and Denis: The Man Behind The Woman.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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