Truth be told, The Iron Lady isn't much to shout about. In portraying the former British Prime Minister, vilified and admired in equal measure by the UK population, director Lloyd has crafted a clodhopping account of her highs and lows in an unengaging and almost cartoony manner. The music booms to a crescendo when displaying her heroically and then wells to melodramatic strains when depicting her tragically. Make no mistake, they are marking her place in history with a grandiose style that is never remotely persuasive.
It starts in the the present day as Mrs T (Streep) buys some milk at her local newsagent. Suffering from senile dementia, it is deemed a mistake to let her out on her own. She is cared for by her irritable daughter Carol (Colman) and believes that husband Denis (Broadbent) is still alive. Her constant mutterings to him, as he appears to her as an apparition, cause bewilderment to all those employed in her household staff.
After a half hour or so establishing this domestic set up we then get to see flashbacks to her past. Roach plays the youthful Thatcher as the young barnstorming ingenue causing ripples in the Conservative party as she makes her steady climb to the top. Streep takes over when we reach 1974 and she first makes a name for herself vying with Tory leader Edward Heath (Sessions, who incidentally was Harold Wilson in Made in Dagenham, thereby achieving the distinction of playing two successive and opposing Prime Ministers from the '60s and '70s). Soon we reach the watershed year of 1979, when Thatcher became Britain's first female PM.
We are then treated to a kind of greatest hits package of the events that shaped her Premiership throughout the '80s - the Brighton bomb blast, her antagonism towards the striking miners, her determination to go to war over the Falklands, the poll tax riots and her eventual downfall as her fellow ministers took umbrage at her increasingly dogmatic and unpopular behaviour. It's all presented with confidence and brio, but the script is woefully cliched and one never gets a sense of any real drama enveloping the proceedings. It plays like a stupid person's idea of what an intelligent movie should be like.
However, there's a caveat to all this criticism – Meryl Streep. She is simply outstanding in the role. As the elder stateswoman losing her marbles, she is remarkably convincing (the makeup is terrific) and her vocal intonations capture Thatcher's diction perfectly. It's not an impersonation but an uncanny and marvellously skilled portrait of the former PM. Streep makes her human - an amazing feat in itself. See The Iron Lady then for her bravura performance. You won't be impressed with the movie but by God you'll come out marvelling at yet another great turn from this superlative performer. She's brilliant.
EXTRAS ★★★★★½ Nine featurettes – From Script to Screen (11:16), Downing Street (2:17), House of Commons (2:23), Love Denis (2:40), Colours, Costume and Character (2:37), Young Margaret (2:40), Creating Margaret Thatcher (2:01), Meet the Politicians (4:26), and John Campbell on Thatcher (9:05). Plus two trailers.