The Queen

Helen Mirren is one of the best actors in her generation.  Well, she's one of the best female actors living.  And one of the best actors in Britain.  Heck, Mirren (Shadowboxer, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) is one of the best actors around, hands down.  It is almost always a joy to watch her, and she is absolutely amazing in Stephen Frears' (Mrs. Henderson Presents, Dirty Pretty Things) The Queen, an absorbing look at Queen Elizabeth II and the British monarchy in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana.  Frears doesn't hold anything back and is highly critical of some aspects of the monarchy, yet also presents them as human, even injecting a large amount of humor into a film that doesn't seem like it should have any.

Frears uses an interesting mix of actual news footage with footage of his actors.  The results look strikingly real, bringing back memories of the fateful day in late August, 1997.  Tony Blair was recently elected Prime Minister, the first Labour PM in nearly two decades.  Moreover, Mirren, bears a striking resemblance to the Queen, not necessarily in her appearance (although that is decently close) but in the way she speaks and carries herself.

Diana was adored by the public, but not exactly so by the Royal family (for obvious reasons).  After Diana's death, the Royal family was curiously quiet, attracting the wrath of the British tabloids.  The Queen shows what may have happened behind the scenes between Blair (Michael Sheen, Underworld:  Evolution, Kingdom of Heaven).  Frears and screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Last King of Scotland) show the Royals as off in their own little world.  While the world grieves, they look curiously on, wondering what the fuss is about.  Prince Philip (James Cromwell, The Longest Yard, I, Robot) seems particularly incensed at the reaction.  Both the Queen and Philip are worried about the welfare of the children of Prince Charles (Alex Jennings, Bridget Jones:  Edge of Reason, The Four Feathers) and Diana, and are holed up in a large castle far away in Balmoral.

The Royals give no statement to the public, and do not do things like fly flags at half-mast.  They do not see the need to; Diana is no longer a member of their family.  They don't understand that the public feels a deeper bond with Diana.  In a sense, it is a clash between the modern and the traditional, with Elizabeth caught in the middle.  Blair, and even Charles, try desperately to convince Elizabeth to make some sort of public statement, but she refuses.  It is only when she realizes the extent of how much the public is turning against the Royals that she begins to reexamine her actions.  These are the points where The Queen is most poignant - this woman is examining the very reason for her existence, and doubting it.  It's powerful in its intensity and Mirren is mesmerizing on screen.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 43 minutes, Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

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