I’m not a big fan of the paparazzi. Not a big fan at all. On one hand I realize that these photographers are just doing their job by trying to take shots of celebrities doing, well, whatever. But every time I see a celebrity on TV that’s cowering in fear of a photographer or wearing sunglasses just to avoid being recognized, I had to wonder what difference one more picture would really make? I can remember reading an article not too long ago about supermodel Kate Moss. She was being followed by a pack of the paparazzi when one of them fell down and broke her ankle. Moss turned around to ask her if she was all right and the woman never responded, only to keep taking pictures of her. Such is the case with the late Princess Diana. It was a much publicized event that her death in 1997 was, in short, the cause of the paparazzi. Her car was traveling at over 100 miles per hour when they hit an entrance to a tunnel, killing all of the passengers in the car. Princess Diana, known more as “the people’s princess” was the most photographed woman in the world and when we lost her, the people of England lost more than a person â€“ they lost an icon.
“The Queen” is a retelling of that time about a decade ago when an exuberant new Prime Minister, Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), has just taken office. He’s anxious to serve his country and has just been elected in a landslide much to Queen Elizabeth II’s (Helen Mirren) disgust. T o her, Blair is just another in the line of Prime Ministers. “You’re my tenth” she tells him. Only a few months after Blair has taken office did the tragedy with Princess Diana happen. The people mourned and poured out emotion for days and weeks and the handling of the situation was one that required finesse to say the least. Blair had the pulse of the people whereas Elizabeth II was more set in her ways. There was public outrage when the flag wasn’t flown at half mast over Buckingham Palace. The film, in a nutshell, is a mild duel between Blair and the Queen as to who’s right and who’s wrong. One on hand, the Queen has a point in that Diana wasn’t a part of the Royal family anymore, so why should she get a royal burial? Blair, however, reacts more to the citizens of England and pushes for some recognition by the throne. Naturally, we all know how it worked out in the end, but “The Queen” manages to take a most interesting concept and deliver a very insightful, informative movie.
Helen Mirren won the Academy Award for her role as Queen Elizabeth II and rightfully so. Not only is she the spitting image of Elizabeth II but her performance was outstanding as well. Nearly as good as Mirren was Michael sheen, an actor I’ve never heard of but I’m sure we’ll be seeing in future roles. James Cromwell has a supporting role as Prince Phillip (Elizabeth II’s husband) and manages to turn in a decent performance, British accent and all. There are two kinds of Americans: the kind that are enamored with the British Royal family and those that aren’t. I classify myself in the latter category, but I know a good film when I see it. Mirren’s performance might not be as over the top as some of the more recent Best Actress winners (Julia Roberts anyone?) but she’s deserving nonetheless. Director Stephen Frears has also done well with his work here. I personally prefer “High Fidelity” as my favorite of his works. No matter how you slice it, this isn’t your typical melodramatic film. It’s cutting and great performances abound.
Video: How does it look?
“The Queen” is presented in a beautiful VC-1 HD transfer that really surprised me. The 1.85:1 transfer is the epitome of what a new to DVD release should look like and I was hard pressed to find anything wrong with the image in the least. Colors really pop and detail is truly amazing and about the only thing I could think is that some of the darker scenes do have a bit of noise associated with them. I suppose I’m used to seeing “British” films and classifying them as looking second rate, but that’s certainly not the case here. Everything about “The Queen” looks good, except for the archive footage of Princess Diana â€“ but that’s to be expected. Suffice it to say that when it comes to looks, this Blu-ray disc delivers.
Audio: How does it sound?
The uncompressed PCM soundtrack contained on “The Queen” isn’t the best out there, but then again it’s not supposed to be. I found the soundtrack to be ample, but for the most part very dialogue driven. Honestly, I really don’t know why they even add a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track on Blu-ray discs anymore, it seem s like a waste of time and space on the disc. Still, the dialogue reproduction sounds very nice and though surround effects aren’t too prevalent I did hear them chime in from time to time. Undoubtedly, this isn’t a disc you’ll want to have on your shelf for the sound mix, but nonetheless “The Queen” delivers here as well.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This Blu-ray disc has the exact same supplements as the standard DVD release (as do most all of Disney’s new to DVD/Blu-ray titles) so we do get a twenty minute featurette aptly-titled “The Making of â€˜The Queen'”. We get some behind the scenes footage, interviews with the cast and crew and basically everything that we’d expect from a behind the scenes featurette. More interesting are the dual commentary tracks. The first is with director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Peter Morgan. The two go back and forth and actually spew forth a lot of interesting material. The second is with British historian Robert Lacey and is a lot more dull and dry. If I had to pick, the one with Frears is the one to hear as the other sounds more like a documentary. And, as usual, we get the Movie Showcase with “shortcuts” to the film’s best audio and video sequences.