The Queen (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/09/2006

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 99 mins

Engaging drama with impressive performances, though it's slightly hampered by the fact that we already know how it ends.

What's it all about?
Directed by Stephen Frears, The Queen begins in May 1997 as Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) asks the newly elected Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) to form her government. It then flashes forward to 1st September, as the world wakes up to the tragic news of Princess Diana's death.

Unable to comprehend the scale of the public's response to the tragedy, the Queen retreats behind the walls of Balmoral, in an attempt to keep the family's grief private. Meanwhile, as the public (and the media) demand that the Royals show their faces, Blair attempts to persuade the Queen to make a statement to the people.

The Good
The central performances are astonishing. Helen Mirren (the only actress to have played both Elizabeth I and II) captures the Queen's physicality without ever descending into caricature, giving her a convincing reality that is surprisingly intimate.

Sheen's performance is closer to mimicry (his early scenes generate laughs of recognition) but he captures Blair's essential man of the people quality. There's also strong support from James Cromwell (as Prince Phillip), Helen McCrory (as Cherie Blair) and Alex Jennings as Prince Charles.

The Great
Frears perfectly recreates the strangeness of the period, frequently splicing the film with genuine news footage that includes speeches from the likes of President Clinton. He also captures the atmosphere of public grief – the images of the flowers outside Kensington Palace are still surprisingly powerful.

The main problem with the film is that it's robbed of any dramatic tension because ultimately we know how it ends. Essentially, it would play better as a TV movie, like its predecessor The Deal, in which Sheen also played Blair for Frears.

Worth seeing?
The Queen is a quietly moving drama that is definitely worth seeing for its performances. It's also fascinating to see how far Blair's star has fallen since 1997.

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The Queen (12A)
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Content updated: 17/02/2019 05:16

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