Combustible Celluloid
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With: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Helen McCrory, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam, Paul Barrett, Sylvia Syms, Tim McMullan, Robin Soans, Lola Peploe, Douglas Reith
Written by: Peter Morgan
Directed by: Stephen Frears
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language
Running Time: 97
Date: 02/09/2006

The Queen (2006)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Royal Fuss

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Stephen Frears (Dirty Pretty Things, Mrs. Henderson Presents) directs and Helen Mirren (Last Orders, Gosford Park) stars as the Queen of England, but this is no dry costume epic. Rather, it's ripped right out of the headlines of 1997, when public opinion began to hold sway over the centuries-old traditions of the monarchy. The extraordinarily popular Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) has been Prime Minister for only a few months when, on August 31, the much-beloved Princess Diana is killed in a car crash. Queen Elizabeth II (Mirren) insists upon following decorum and keeping the death in the family without making a public spectacle. And besides, why should the Queen make a fuss when Diana wasn't even a member of the Royal Family anymore? Craftily written by Peter Morgan (who also wrote the current The Last King of Scotland), the bulk of the film consists of careful tête-à-têtes between Blair and his Queen; he becomes ever more enthralled with her, while she discovers a chink in her armor. She slowly senses something has changed about the world, which might require a different approach. James Cromwell is wonderful as Prince Philip, whose solution to everything is to go stag hunting. Frears includes plenty of pixilated video archival footage to give the film a kind of newsy immediacy; the characters, additionally, spend a great deal of time in front of the tube. But Frears energizes and modulates the film well, giving Mirren plenty of moments to quietly shine. Mirren has already attracted awards buzz for her performance, and she deserves it.

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