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The Lady [DVD] (2011)
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Luc Besson directs this biopic about Burmese pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, played in the film by Michelle Yeoh. Suu Kyi spent almost 15 years under house arrest for leading a non-violent uprising against Burma's long-standing military dictatorship. With the unwavering support of her husband, Oxford academic Michael Aris (David Thewlis), Suu Kyi sacrifices the peace and security of family life in England to lead the struggle to bring democracy to her native country, and put an end to the violence, corruption and human rights abuses that have come to characterise Burmese politics.
Director Luc Besson proves for the umpteenth time that he’s not one to be restricted by genre with The Lady. It’s a film that tells the real life story of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel-prize winning campaigner who fought for democracy in Burma. The film starts back in her childhood, before picking up with her happily married in England. By this time, she’s played by Michelle Yeoh, with David Thewlis stepping into the shoes of her husband.
Events conspire to take her back to Burma, though, and The Lady then concerns itself as much with the separation of husband and wife as it does the political situation. That makes it a bumpy film, and sometimes an unfocused one. Yet Besson’s intentions are so strong, and his meticulous detail so obvious, that the film’s issues are easy to forgive. Furthermore, Michelle Yeoh clearly devoted herself to the lead role, comfortably giving the best performance of her career. David Thewlis? He’s excellent, too, as always.
There’s clearly a better film to be made out of the story of Aung San Suu Kyi, but that doesn’t make The Lady a bad one. What’s more, thanks to Yeoh’s magnificent central turn, even in its weaker moments, there’s usually something of interest happening. The Lady has problems, certainly, but it has some genuine ambition, too. --Jon Foster
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The cinematography and visual quality of this film are top notch. The film stays true to the historical events without over dramatizing anything. It would have been nice if the director had included the 1996 attack on Aung San's motorcade, though, as this would have given the film some additional drama while still being true to historical events.
My main issue with the film (and perhaps why it didnt become as famous as other biopics) is the rather lacklustre film soundtrack. Sure, the main theme is really nicely done, but the rest of the music used in the film is very generic stuff that doesn't leave any lasting impression. Had Luc Besson hired a composer of renown, like Hans Zimmer (remember his soundtrack for Pearl Harbor?), James Horner, Vangelis, or even Mike Oldfields who composed the score for The Killing Fields, would have done this film more justice. Because always remember: the soundtrack can make or break a film. Lord of the Rings without Howard Shore is simply not the same.
Another point is this film could have taken one step back and offered a broader perspective of the historical development of Burma's political situation during the past 50 years. How did the military junta come into power? Who was Aung San really? Why did the military eventually just say "screw it" and release Aung San Suu Kyi from her house arrest? How did the buddhist monks get involved in Suu Kyi's movement? Etc. etc. Rather, the film focuses only on Suu Kyi, her husband Michael Arris (great performance by David Thewlis, by the way) and too much on her two sons who especially occupy too much screen time without adding anything of significance, while on the other side we have the eternally irritated antagonist, the superstitious military general and his close circle of advisors, but otherwise little else.
All in all however, a really solid offering that can easily hold its own with other famous biopics.
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