The Queen: An Incredible Story
by Alex Billington
October 13, 2006
The death of Princess Diana is one of the most memorable tragedies in recent history. The Queen explores the private story behind the royal family's lack of public appearance after her death. The film takes the subtle approach of exploring the Diana story from the viewpoint of the royal family unlike any other film based on tragic events in history. The Queen is historical storytelling at its best. Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II delivers an uncannily realistic portrayal and provides one of the greatest performances of 2006.
At the time of Diana's death she had been divorced from Prince Charles (played by Alex Jennings) and was not popularly associated with the royal family. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip (James Cromwell) were not very fond of Diana and her celebrity status, as the royal family is typically very private. The Queen touches briefly on Diana's background and includes a vignette about Tony Blair's (Michael Sheen) election as Prime Minister and his first nervous encounter with the queen. When news of Diana's death arrived, the entire royal family was in residence at Balmoral Castle, a rather secluded residence of the royal family. The consensus held by the queen and her family is that Diana's death is a private affair, and therefore they spend most of the remaining days in privacy on the castle grounds as the world grieves. Although The Queen does tell quite a bit of Tony Blair's story, the focus is primarily on the personal emotions and actions (or lack thereof) of Elizabeth II and the royal family members close to her.
The reason why The Queen deserves such a high rating is the fact that I went in not expecting much and came out greatly surprised. I credit the film's story, editing and, above all, Helen Mirren's performance. It's her undoubtedly genuine acting that makes The Queen as fantastic and enjoyable as it is. Michael Sheen as Tony Blair also delivers a "revolutionary" character that has some great comedic moments. It is Blair who eventually persuades Elizabeth II to finally come out and give her speech to the public. Sheen had to be in a very convincing role and he fulfilled it perfectly. These two truly lead the way in creating the experience that The Queen is and making it into something that it would not have been without them.
The Queen is a rare film questioning the reactions of the British Royal Family that has reached American cinemas. In the end, I felt quite a bit of remorse while still harboring plenty of respect for Elizabeth II. Although the movie is heavy-hearted with sadness for the deceased Princess Diana, it is still a rather lightly-flowing story relying much on Elizabeth II's personality. The film emphasizes the queen's speech as the climactic breakthrough moment, a decision with which I emphatically agree. Her emotions at that point were fascinating. Right before the speech while Elizabeth II is putting on her necklace and looking at herself in the mirror, it is her facial expression alone that exudes so much emotion. This personal story of both Queen Elizabeth II and Tony Blair is an exquisite outlook on the Princess Diana tragedy and is fit into an enjoyable and emotional film.
The Queen has surpassed my expectations by leaps and bounds. It brings together great performances and an amazing story into what is not only enjoyable but also respectful. This movie will touch the hearts of all those who felt moved by the events following Princess Diana's death in 1997. It opened my eyes to a great story told in a compelling manner by an accomplished filmmaker. The Queen is one of the most passionate biographic films that I have ever seen and Helen Mirren delivers a certainly Oscar-worthy performance.