The Story: When news of the death of Princess Diana breaks upon a shocked and disbelieving British public, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) retreats behind the walls of Balmoral Castle with her family, unable to comprehend the public response to the tragedy. For Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), the popular and newly elected Prime Minister, the people's need for reassurance and support from their leaders is unmistakable. As the unprecedented outpouring of emotion grows stronger, Blair must find a way to reconnect the Queen with the British public.
The Good: The movie is an intriguing look at what goes on behind the scenes in the Royal Family. This is an area I don't have much familiarity with (I can now only vaguely recall Diana's death), which made it all the more interesting. The film is essentially a character study of how the Queen and Tony Blair deal with Diana's death and the publicís response to it, and the actors' mesmerizing performances make up its backbone. Helen Mirren is a lock for a Best Actress nomination, shining in a somewhat subdued performance of someone trying to cling to their tradition when forced to deal with a culture of change. Michael Sheen, whom I have become a fan of after seeing him in Underworld and Kingdom Of Heaven, gives his best performance yet as a man who rises to power and handles it with a grace and humbleness not often seen today in the world of politics. His role will probably be overlooked by others in higher profile pictures, but his portrayal is just as important to the movie's success as that of Mirren's.
The Bad: Nothing major. I thought the movie relied a little too much on actual news coverage. While this did add a grounded sense of reality to the film, it seemed to be overused in a couple of places. I also felt that the subplot involving the stag wasnít as effective as it thought it was or could have been.
The Verdict: Stephen Frears, who directed one of my favorite romantic dramas of all time, High Fidelity, has crafted another winner. Sure to receive much attention come awards time, The Queen is a fascinating study of a leader caught at a time of personal crossroads. Definitely check it out.