Iron Lady opens with Margaret Thatcher shoved aside in a convenience store while trying to purchase milk. What seems so insignificant becomes the mental downfall which drives the film. Burdened by the loss of her husband, she hallucinates, bringing him back to life in her own mind. Thatcher, as she was in her driven political days, is too headstrong to admit her health may be failing.
It becomes a recipe for a powerhouse Meryl Streep performance, one that stretches simulated decades. Through intricate age make-up, or even the lack thereof, Streep pulls double duty, one as an aging and confused Alzheimer’s patient, another as a young upstart filled with determination. Each requires a gentle hand and deft approach, either end of Thatcher’s life requiring her character to remain alive.
Whether Iron Lady would receive the attention it has -including dual (deserving) Oscars- without Streep is a train of thought worthy of discussion. Much is spent detailing Thatcher’s twilight years here in the present day. Her political spectrum feels squelched, almost defeated. The pressure in the office under the weight of the population when dealing with Falkland Islands, isn’t there. The framework of the piece doesn’t allow the room to build for success.
In reality, Iron Lady is more of a love story, Thatcher’s deceased husband Denis (Jim Broadbent) still her backer even after his death. They were that close, even amidst home turmoil over her rush into politics. She doesn’t even realize he has gone out of the country for days while contemplating her run for prime minister.
Elements of her politics hardly feel dissected or considered, the countless riots displayed with actual archival footage, although her unflinching dedication to her personal ideals is certainly evident. It could certainly be considered her downfall as well, handled with care and emotion. Oddly, the resignation as captured here has more weight than many of her steadfast policies.
What is deliberate is the look of the film, turning Thatcher into an outcast within the mountain of male political counterparts. Almost defiantly, she seats herself in a power blue dress, eying the opposition, as the black suited men behind her rally. There is no choice other than to notice her, regardless of your political standing. It makes the frail, aging women on the opposite timeline seem almost defeated, even if she could never bring herself to realize it. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]
With a light, hardly noticeable film grain to work with, the encode pulls through with few challenges. Never is the film stock betrayed. One singular trouble spot, a shot of a young Thatcher surrounded by smoke, is bothersome. Even then, it’s not a case of the encode failing, but handling the material as presented.
Cool and pale, the palette flattens out the image. Taken with the stylistic choice are the flesh tones and black levels, the latter rarely given weight. The effect, however, is minimal. Integrity in the video’s depth is admirable, even without the blacks reaching for their peak. Working against the color timing, they create scenarios of an elder woman lost after her removal from power, appealing in a different way than eye-popping standards.
Age make-up holds firm, earning that Oscar win even under the scrutiny of HD. The texture is remarkably lifelike, and that proves truthful outside of the effects work. Facial detail is commendable, the disc capable of reproducing high-fidelity definition despite a soft veneer.
Historical images, as mentioned above, are presented from tape footage. Clearly, the quality takes a steep dive from the modern film stock, made worse by an insistence to stretch the footage to fill the 2.35:1 frame. Clearly, that can’t be held against the disc itself, although some will find the swap in quality jarring. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
Behind the opening logos, Iron Lady begins with a swell from an unseen crowd. What starts in the rears pushes forward, panning into the front soundstage with authority. The effect is seamless.
Probably against the expectation, this disc is a relative powerhouse. A trio of bombings are recreated with force, a natural burst of LFE that can exist in the forefront of the mix or slightly behind it if the event is off screen. Being in the heart of riots can bring about deep subwoofer support as well, the chaos of the scene amplified.
Iron Lady splits the dialogue generously across the stereos. Characters speaking on the far sides of the frame stretch the imaging to match the image. A TV broadcasting the news, just off screen, will be present in the right front, creating a rare synergy between location and sound for a dialogue-heavy live action affair.
Crowds remain prevalent too, from the frenzied parliament to the numerous reporters that swarm Thatcher as she leaves office for the finale time. Surrounds add to the environment, never overstated, and are used consistently. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]
Menu design for the bonus features is repetitious, wherein the same classical music number is played on the main menu, and then again to intro four brief featurettes. Were they not short, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bother, and it also wouldn’t hurt if they were decent. A making of is the only piece worth pursuing at around 12-minutes.
Recreating the Young Margaret Thatcher gives due credit to Alexandra Roach, who plays the political icon in her 20’s. It’s all praise for three minutes. Denis: The Man Behind the Woman details casting and the performance by Jim Broadbent. Battle in the House of Commons looks at the set design. The latter two are five minutes total.
History Goes to the Cinema is a stale promo for Anchor Bay/Weinstein’s recent string of biopics, with clips pulled from other featurettes. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]
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