The latest from director Stephen Frears ("High Fidelity") opens in England, with Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren, who won an Oscar for her efforts) in preparation for a meeting with new prime minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen, "Underworld"), who goes into the meeting feeling rather intimidated. Shortly after, tragedy strikes and Princess Diana is killed in a car crash (recreated here in a manner that thankfully is subtle and cuts away before the actual crash), but with newsreel footage of Diana mixed in.)
Going forward with the belief that Diana is no longer a member of the royals (who never exactly welcomed her), the Royal family does not speak to the public and believes that this should be a private family matter. However, the rest of the world mourns and is deeply shocked and saddened by the loss. As the days pass by, the public begins to grow angry that the royals have done nothing to address Diana's untimely passing.
Blair continually presses the Queen to respond to Diana's passing, but the Queen stubbornly persists with tradition and, despite her nature, he still keeps trying to alert her to the fact that she has fallen out of touch with the people. Eventually, he informs her that polls show that a large part of the public has turned against the monarchy. It is then that Elizabeth finally begins to realize that she must break from the traditions that she has known all her life.
"The Queen" offers a series of remarkable performances, although none quite as impressive as Mirren, who truly becomes Elizabeth in a way that's not showy - it just is. Mirren carries herself and presents herself in a royal manner quite accurately, but does an expert job showing the character's inner turmoil. Sheen's performance as the boyish Blair is also quite engaging and sympathetic.
"The Queen" also remains a surprisingly swift, tight picture. With moments of light (but appropriate) humor occasionally added in and a swift running time of about 100 minutes, the picture feels like about an hour. Overall, "The Queen" is an excellent look into what may have occured in the lives of these figures during this tragic week. The film is light on plot, but is highly engaging, especially thanks to a series of terrific performances - especially Mirren's Oscar-winning effort as the Queen.
VIDEO: "The Queen" is presented by Miramax in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This was an enjoyable, above-average presentation, but a few concerns kept it from reaching a higher level of quality. Sharpness and detail were reasonably good for the most part, but a few scenes here-and-there appeared slightly softer than the rest. As for other concerns, some noticable edge enhancement appeared in a few scenes, as did some traces of artifacting. The elements appeared in great shape, with no print flaws spotted at all. Colors appeared mildly subdued, but still seemed accurate and natural. Black level looked solid, while flesh tones were spot-on. This was a satisfactory presentation, but some problems did present themselves.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was, as one might expect, almost entirely dialogue-driven. The score did get some minor reinforcement from the surrounds, but the rear speakers were otherwise quiet throughout the majority of the film. Audio quality was perfectly fine, as the film's audio delivered dialogue with excellent clarity and no instances of distortion. The film's score also sounded full and crisp. Overall, this was a fine presentation that delivered the expected.
EXTRAS: Commentary by director Stephen Frears and writer Peter Morgan and another commentary from British historian and royal expert Robert Lacey, author of "Majesty". We also get an informative, nearly 20-minute "making of" featurette, as well as promos for upcoming titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts:Overall, "The Queen" is an excellent look into what may have occured in the lives of these figures during this tragic week. The film is light on plot, but is highly engaging, especially thanks to a series of terrific performances - especially Mirren's Oscar-winning effort as the Queen. The DVD offers excellent audio/video quality and two solid commentaries as the main supplements. Highly recommended.
The Film A-