Reel Critics: Streep shines as Britain's 'Iron Lady'

Once again, Meryl Streep gives an Oscar-worthy performance in a big role on the big screen.

Her acting credentials are on vivid display as she virtually channels the core persona of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She delivers a brilliant performance as the legendary "Iron Lady" of the film's title.

Screenwriter Abi Morgan and Director Phyllida Morgan offer a sensitive look at the life of the first woman to hold that high office in Britain. They begin with scenes of Thatcher in her old age and delicate health. We watch as she goes through memorabilia and photos of her complex career.

This life review sets in motion many flashbacks.

They trace her rise in the political power structure of England. They also highlight the great world events that transpired during Thatcher's many years in the public eye. Economic upheaval in Europe, the Falkland Islands War of 1982 and the rise of terrorism are just a few of the major trials she faced as the country's leader.

Great production values and cinematography add to the excellence of this film. Streep has already won the Golden Globe for Best Actress for this role. She looks to be a favorite to win the Oscar.


'Contraband' delivers the goods

Mark Wahlberg plays a retired smuggler who gets sucked back in the game in "Contraband," a clever action flick that delivers the goods and a few surprises.

Once dubbed "the Lennon and McCartney of smuggling," Wahlberg and his buddy Ben Foster, as Chris Farraday and Sebastian Abney, are living quiet, clean and sober in the suburbs.

But the more you stay out, the more they pull you back in.

Wahlberg is forced to pull one more job in order to save his foolish brother-in-law and protect his own family from the clutches of a sleazy drug lord (Giovanni Ribisi). Before we know it, he's on a freighter plotting to smuggle counterfeit cash.

There are lots of far-fetched, but savvy coincidences that make the caper as fun as "Ocean's Eleven." The action only slows down for some violent scenery-chewing from Ribisi (doing an impression of Nicolas Cage doing an impression of Marlon Brando) and threats against Wahlberg's wife (Kate Beckinsale).

Wahlberg is always good at playing the strong, no-nonsense guy with a conscience. He takes whatever twists that are thrown at him with an unwavering confidence — like being stranded in Panama City and finding his way back to his ship without a GPS.

Crime certainly does pay — but only if you're cool.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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