Starring: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Helen McCrory
Studio: Miramax 52081
Video: 1.85:1 Widescreen Enhanced
Audio: English DD 5.1, Spanish language track (Blu-ray version)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish (Blu-ray)
Extras: Audio Commentaries: 1) Director Stephen Frears & Writer Peter Morgan, 2) British historian and royal expert Robert Lacey, Previews (Déjà vu, Roger Corman, Kyle XY, Ratatouille, Becoming Jane, Soapnet, Miramax); The Making of the Queen (19 min)
Length: 103 minutes
This film takes place in the latter half of 1997 and tells the story of the Royal family, specifically the Queen of England, and her interaction with Britain’s prime minister, the press, the public, and her family regarding the death of Princess Diana. It’s a fascinating history lesson delving deep into well-known characters that are quite different than one may imagine. There is a strong focus on the relationships of the royal family and those with whom they come in contact.
The success of the film is due to a several factors. It doesn’t take an expert critic to appreciate the contribution made by Helen Mirren to The Queen. It seems such a natural role for her, yet you can hear the humility as she talks about the difficulties in such a portrayal in The Making of the Queen extra. There is no doubt that she deserved the Academy Award for Best Actress. But if she were the only one, the movie would not be as much a success as it is. In fact, almost all the supporting actors were well above average—especially James Cromwell who was quite memorable for his humorous disdain for the actions of most of the non-Royals in the film.
On the technical side, the film uses actual footage to imbue a sense of realism to the events. The depiction of the infamous car chase intercut with actual footage of Diana avoiding the camera on other occasions hits an emotional chord with the viewer. The camera is constantly moving and there are many shots that come in close to the characters. After all, the film is about personalities and the viewer is reminded of this numerous times with the shots emphasizing the emotion and drama as well as the personal nature of the scenes. The time between cuts are quick and help to increase the intensity of the situation, but also create a distraction at specific moments. Another way the camera serves to bring the viewer closer is through the framing, which would often cut off the tops of head and hair of characters or would be off center as well. Perhaps it was accidental, but the motion and “unevenness” felt more organic and less composed than what you’d expect from this type of film. It recalls the style of a documentary.
One of the more powerful scenes in the film has the main character’s vehicle stuck in the river. Frustrated and forlorn she turns and witnesses a stag whose majesty gives her pause and in turn signals the beginning of a change of her attitude. The viewer glimpses a noteworthy change in the Queen—a shift from the stoical nature which most would expect, to a more humane being filled with feeling, regret, and sadness at the death of Princess Diana. The transformation is depicted masterfully and makes this film one that any serious movie-watcher will not want to miss.
[Although the film includes actual video footage from the public flower displays, the Queen’s TV speech and of the funeral procession, it doesn’t seem visually jarring in the Blu-ray version but supports the realism of the presentation. The staged crowd scenes and the lovely widescreen landscape panoramas around Balmoral Castle in Scotland make full use of the hi-def medium. One of the three video demo clips provided in the Blu-ray extras is of the scene with the stag described above. It’s also nice to be able to access the menu so easily while the film is in progress – to select the commentary track for some sections and then turn it off easily…Ed.]
— Brian Bloom