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  Publicity Stills of "The Queen"
Courtesy of Festive Films

Genre: Drama
Director: Stephen Frears
Starring: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Sylvia Syms, Alex Jennings, Helen McCrory, Roger Allam, Tim McMullan
RunTime: 1 hr 37 mins
Released By: GV & Festive Films
Rating: PG
Official website: http://www.thequeen-movie.com/

Opening Day: 4 January 2007



When news of the death of Princess Diana, undoubtedly the most famous woman in the world, breaks upon a shocked and disbelieving British public, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II retreats behind the walls of Balmoral Castle with her family, unable to comprehend the public response to the tragedy. For Tony Blair, the popular and newly elected Prime Minister, the people’s need for reassurance and support from their leaders is palpable. As the unprecedented outpouring of emotion grows ever stronger, Blair must find a way to reconnect the Queen with the British public.

Movie Review:

Stephen Frears’s “The Queen” harkens back to the not so distant past when Britain’s politics were in the midst of a paradigm shift as a new Prime Minister was elected in a landslide victory, and back when Tony Blair was still liked by the British people to the extent of preferring him to the monarchy. But it primarily concerns itself with events of August 31, 1997 when the world stood still in front of news outlets with shock and disbelief as information poured through with the details of Princess Diana’s passing.

There’s an extremely humanistic centre in the film’s regal and exact conduct that’s hard to ignore. This is especially true when the simmering mannerisms in its enclosed scenes threaten to create a void between the performers and audience. Fortunately, as many critics and opinion-makers have voiced, it is ultimately the cast that transcends the material and propels it to heights of emotional depth and compelling storytelling. Frears gently weaves in droll British cynicism with slices of historical footages in retelling the hours before and the weeks after Princess Diana’s death. It has too much specious conjecture to be a docudrama but curiously enough, has too much political gravitas not to be. There’s a sense of a spell being cast on the audience when layers upon layers of enchantingly guile verisimilitude are strewn across the screen in its dialogue and conflicts, when personal conversations in corridors offer supposed insights into closely guarded relationships.

In a film whose crowning character keeps her nose in the air throughout with a dry wit and penetrating intelligence that comes from decades of political machination and staunch devotion to tradition, you begin to wonder what is going through Mirren’s mind as she embodies the ruddy Queen’s heart and soul. She lays the heavy crown on her head while the film itself manages to show compassion towards the tough monarch, with Mirren’s technical poise and confidence in her self-restraint performance leading the way for an almost definite blitz on every Lead Actress award she’s a possible candidate for.

If anything, Mirren’s Queen Elizabeth II is an anachronistic casualty. So is the family who has her ear in the Queen Mother (Sylvia Syms) and Prince Phillip (James Cromwell). They regard ‘revolution’ and ‘modernisation’ as nothing but dirty words uttered by those that don’t really know any better. Our sympathies lie with the reigning Queen as she’s torn between her pride and exerting her authority, exacerbating the widening disconnect between the monarchy and the new Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) government that unduly becomes a power struggle refereed by the press. With precisely crafted characters and the insights that come with it, the Queen is shown to be quietly disdainful of the populist views and the vantage that democracy has. She corrals herself in Balmoral Castle and the palace as she faces certain disparagement from the electorate. Also spurred on by the selfishly spurious and PR-savvy Prince Charles (Alex Jennings), Tony Blair desperately asks in his office at 10 Downing Street, “Will someone save these people from themselves?”

It is cheeky in highlighting Blair’s formerly uphill status as the man with the main line into the people’s hearts and minds. In a telling and superlative scene, the film prophetically makes known how little has changed in the political landscape aside from its scapegoats.

Now, when will we have a film about that delightful Prince Phillip?

Movie Rating:

(Majestically performed with a touch of class, one of the year’s best)

Review by Justin Deimen


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