Saturday, August 16, 2014
The Queen (2006 film)
Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 1/28/07 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.
Directed by Stephen Frears and written by Peter Morgan, The Queen is the story about Queen Elizabeth II dealing with new Prime Minister Tony Blair as they try to deal with the death of Princess Diana in a car accident in Paris. The film is a dramatization into Queen Elizabeth II's reaction to Diana's death as the world waits for her own public response as Blair is trying to modernize Britain in this second part of Morgan's trilogy about Blair's rise as he is played by Michael Sheen while Helen Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth II. Also starring Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Helen McCroy, Alex Jennings, and Sylvia Syms. The Queen is a riveting film from Stephen Frears.
The film is an exploration into the arrival of Tony Blair as Prime Minister of Great Britain after 18 years of Conservative rule as he would meet Queen Elizabeth II where they would meet again a few months later following the tragic death of the former Princess of Wales Diana Spencer in a car accident in a Parisian tunnel. For the Queen and her husband Prince Philip (James Cromwell), they want a private funeral but Blair's statements about Diana as the People's Princess brings pressure to the Royal Family as Prince Charles (Alex Jennings) thinks Blair is on the right path. Eventually, the Queen gives in to Blair's ideas and the public scrutiny but it would come at a price for would come for Blair just as his popularity would soar.
Though it's more of a dramatic account of what might’ve gone on inside the monarchy and through Blair’s camp, Stephen Frears and screenwriter Peter Morgan does manage to bring a film that reflects on that week where the world watched. Really, the film is about Queen Elizabeth II trying to attain her role as a public figure and remaining true to her role of tradition and her own thoughts of Britain. Frears and Morgan deserve credit for portraying the Queen as well as other characters as figures who try to figure out what to do in this time of crisis concerning the death of Princess Diana. The result is a very strong, very cerebral film with a few entertaining moments courtesy of Frears' observant direction and the amazing screenplay by Peter Morgan.
Morgan's script is truly superb in how the characters are portrayed as well as the script's structure. The first fifteen minutes of the film is on Blair's arrival and his first meeting with the Queen and the last twenty-minutes is about the aftermath of the Diana funeral two months afterwards where Blair meets the Queen once again. Morgan comes up with some funny one-liners, particularly from the likes of personalities like Alistair Campbell (Mark Bazeley), the Blairs, and the Queen Mother (Sylvia Sims). The humor comes very naturally not only in the words those characters say but also in how they feel. Particularly Cherie Blair's known disdain for the monarchy about her curtsy. There's a lot of fine detail from Morgan's script about what might've gone on and it's truly an amazing screenplay. Especially through Frears' direction where despite a few moments where the film drags, the direction is spot-on through every moment of the film.
Cinematographer Affonso Beato does wonderful work in several of the film's interior settings to create the tense atmosphere of the palace where it's a bit surreal while the exteriors scenes are wonderfully shot. Particularly in the Scottish countryside where it's just amazing while giving the feeling that we’re in that area. Production designer Alan MacDonald with art directors Matthew Broderick (not the actor) and Franck Schwarz in creating the wonderful look of the castle and Buckingham Palace. Costume designer Constola Boyle does great work in the film's costumes with the suits and kilts of the men as well as the clothing of the Queen from her pink bathrobe to the suit she wears in her televised presentation. Makeup artist Daniel Phillips also does great work in bringing the look of both the Queen and Tony Blair where compared to their appearances in real-life, the actors in the make-up look eerily like the characters they're playing.
Editor Lucia Zucchetti does some great work in the editing, particularly using the archival TV footage from around the world including coverage of the funeral and the responses from world leaders as the film plays to a strong historical drama. Sound editor Paul Davies does excellent work in the sound, especially a scene where Charles goes to Paris and sees the body where the sound is turned off. Not only is it a smart decision by Frears but Davies as well for not including any sound. Composer Alexandre Desplat brings an amazing film score filled with chiming, melodic arrangements filled with a large orchestra to convey the sense of drama and movement of the times as Desplat's work is truly one of the best scores of the year.
The film's cast is wonderfully assembled with notable small roles from Douglas Reith as the chaplain Lord Airlie and Tim McMullan as Stephen Lamport. Mark Bazeley is excellent as the snide Alistair Campbell while Roger Allam is superb as the cautious yet loyal Robin Janvrin who advises Blair on how he should approach things. Helen McCrory is wonderful as Cherie Blair with her criticism of the monarchy and her own opinions just like the real Cherie Blair. Sylvia Syms is really good as the Queen Mother, who is the old traditionalist unaware of the new changes as she has a few funny one-liners about how no one tells her anything anymore. Alex Jennings is excellent as Prince Charles in portraying the prince as a father trying to comfort his boys and struggling with his own role in the public eye. James Cromwell is brilliant as Prince Philip, notably for just playing an old wanker who has a disgust towards Diana and the public response. Michael Sheen gives an amazing performance as Tony Blair with his hopes to modernize Britain and his unexpected support of the monarchy as a man who is unaware of how big his role is only to learn, much later on, on what the Queen told him.
Finally, there's Helen Mirren in what has to be one of the greatest performances captured on film. There are times in the film that the performance is strong, we're forgetting that it's Helen Mirren playing the Queen. Yet, Mirren brings a lot of restraint and dignity to the role, it almost becomes a documentary of sorts on whom the Queen might really be like. Mirren is very commanding in every scene she's in as she allows the Queen to be human and have a few funny lines including a scene involving her driving a car through the Scottish highlands. In the end, Mirren brings a performance that is worthy of being called regal and it's a must-see to show the talents and experience of this acclaimed British actress.
The Queen is a remarkable film from Stephen Frears and screenwriter Peter Morgan that features a magnificent performance from Helen Mirren in the titular role. Along with a great supporting cast led by Michael Sheen as Tony Blair, the film is definitely one of Frears' finest films as well as a poignant historical drama about Tony Blair's rise to prominence. In the end, The Queen is an incredible film from Stephen Frears.
Stephen Frears Films: (Gumshoe) - (Afternoon Off) - (Bloody Kids) - (Walter) - (Walter and June) - (December Flower) - (The Hit (1984 film)) - (My Beautiful Launderette) - (Prick Up Your Ears) - (Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door) - (Sammie and Rose Get Laid) - (The Grifters) - (Hero (1992 film)) - (The Snapper) - (Mary Reilly) - (The Van (1996 film)) - (The Hi-Lo Country) - (High Fidelity) - (Liam) - (Fail-Safe (2000 TV film)) - Dirty Pretty Things - (The Deal (2003 TV film)) - (Mrs. Henderson Presents) - (Cheri) - (Tamara Drewe) - (Lay the Favorite) - (Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight) - Philomena
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