The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

PHYL­L­IDA Lloyd, who di­rected Meryl Streep in the ABBA-based mu­si­cal Mamma Mia!, fol­lowed it with The Iron Lady (Sun­day, 8.30pm, M Pre­miere), an­other big hit, in which Streep played Bri­tain’s long­est-serv­ing 20th-cen­tury prime min­is­ter, Mar­garet Thatcher. We all know Streep’s way with ac­cents and im­per­son­ations: no one is bet­ter at this game. But her per­for­mance here is noth­ing short of amaz­ing — dark, com­plex, nu­anced and ut­terly con­vinc­ing. Lloyd and her screen­writer Abi Mor­gan have bril­liantly in­ter­wo­ven Thatcher’s per­sonal story (from girl­hood to de­mented old age) with a graphic por­trayal of the mood and spirit of her time.

One rea­son The Iron Lady is likely to ap­peal to Aus­tralian au­di­ences is that its story is fa­mil­iar. I can think of at least one former Aus­tralian prime min­is­ter, pop­u­larly elected and widely ad­mired, whose government (like Thatcher’s) man­aged the econ­omy suc­cess­fully in dif­fi­cult times, but who was forced out of of­fice by col­leagues, who ac­cused him of ar­ro­gance and bul­ly­ing. Which brings us (in a man­ner of speak­ing) to Lynne Ram­say’s We Need to Talk About Kevin (Mon­day, 6.30pm, M Mas­ter­piece), based on Lionel Shriver’s haunt­ing novel. I couldn’t put the book down when I read it a cou­ple of years ago, and this sad, wrench­ing film does jus­tice to it. Tilda Swin­ton is su­perb as the mother of a dis­turbed ado­les­cent jailed for com­mit­ting a hor­rific crime at a school in Con­necti­cut — a mas­terly blend of hor­ror, drama and psy­cho­log­i­cal in­sight, whose par­al­lels with re­cent events give it a dread­ful top­i­cal­ity.

One of the great films of World War II, Thirty Sec­onds Over Tokyo (Satur­day, 9.20pm, Fox Clas­sics) is about a fa­mous US bomb­ing raid on Tokyo and Yoko­hama — Amer­ica’s first ma­jor re­tal­ia­tory strike against Ja­pan af­ter the hu­mil­i­a­tion of Pearl Har­bor. Spencer Tracy plays the leader of the mis­sion but Van John­son is the real star. In the same year (1944), Hol­ly­wood cov­ered the home front with an­other clas­sic, Since You Went Away (Satur­day, 11.45pm, Fox Clas­sics), a su­pe­rior weepie about an Amer­i­can fam­ily cop­ing while dad is at the war. At just less than three hours it was long by the stan­dards of its time, and even by to­day’s, but the hours pass quickly and there are touch­ing per­for­mances from Claudette Col­bert, Jen­nifer Jones and a teenage Shirley Tem­ple.

Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours (Satur­day, 10.10pm, M Thriller/Crime) is one of those rare ac­tion films with a min­i­mum of ac­tion, which is not to say that not much hap­pens. Aron Ral­ston (James Franco) is an ad­ven­ture-lov­ing trail-bike rider and moun­taineer who in April 2003 found him­self trapped un­der a boul­der in a re­mote canyon in Utah, un­able to free him­self and un­able to call for help. Some­how he kept him­self alive with odd par­ti­cles of food and sips from a water bot­tle. Har­row­ing and un­for­get­table.

Critic’s choice

(M) ★★★★✩ Sun­day, 8.30pm, M Pre­miere

(MA15+) ★★★★✩ Satur­day, 10.10pm, M Thriller/Crime

(PG) ★★★★✩ Satur­day, 11.45pm, Fox Clas­sics

Meryl Streep as Mar­garet Thatcher

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