Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: The Rise and Fall of Margaret Thatcher

Pros: In-depth, well-acted, well-paced dramas that wonderfully capture personalities and events
Cons: Actor/actress shift confusion (if watched in a row), lack of knowledge of British politics may leave non-parliamentarians scratching their heads
Bottom line: Great for anyone who likes drama or history. Will get you looking up deeper facts and details.

I was sent these dvds for my general interest in 20th century history. Some historical dramas just drag, while others skip through events like rocks across a shallow stream. My hopes were dim for these productions until I noticed two things:
1) They were produced by the BBC.
2) There are 284 minutes of screen time.
Since they came from the BBC, I could at least assume that they had to hold closely to facts, that the writers had good access to original sources, and that Hollywoodization would be somewhat minimized. All media has slant, but my hope was that I was in a low-spin zone, even for such a controversial figure as Mrs. Thatcher.
The nearly six hours of screen time put me on guard for a snoozer...needlessly.

I loved it.

The first movie, "The Long Walk to Finchley" is an account of Thatcher's efforts to land a seat in Parliament. Other key events, as well as her struggles against sexism, are woven in seamlessly.

The second, "The Falklands Play" focuses on the Falkland Islands War with Argentina. It depicts the debates swirling around the activities of the Argentinians and the controversies and second-guessing as events unfolded. The Americans are shown as unsophisticated buffaloes that are taken to task by the Prime Minister...but maybe that's what we are and that's what happened. My 8-year-old even liked it!

The third, "The Fall" recounts the political machinations that brought her down. What I found amazing was how quickly this happened...and from within her own party! This was the most confusing of the three movies, as I am not familiar with the inner workings of the British Parliament (and this was produced by the BBC for British consumption). However, it sent me to the internet to read up on it, which was quite welcome. It also had several flashbacks to key events in her life (more on that below).

These movies were well-acted, directed, and produced. Casting was superb and the screenplay was paced just about right. I rarely say that I want to watch a movie again, (especially ones that do not have explosions), but I will someday when the kids are learning 20th-century history.

I had one important trouble with the films: they used different actors and actresses for the various parts. Thus, the Thatcher of "The Fall" actually looked younger that the "Falklands" (and much younger than I remember the real Mrs. Thatcher at the time), I believe partly due to the fact that the flashbacks required the same actress. A little more age makeup may have helped. What really confused things were that different actors were used for the same parts, so MP "John" in "Falklands" looked completely different than MP "John" in "Fall", so it was hard to remember who was who, especially when such matters are critical to the story. Then again, maybe I shouldn't have watched them so close together!

All in all, though, well-done and interesting. What more could a history trilogy need?

Disclosure:  We received The Rise and Fall of Margaret Thatcher on DVD  for reviewThe opinions we have expressed are honest opinions and have not been influenced by the companies providing the free product.  No other compensation was received.