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Posted April 24, 2007


"The Queen" Commands Your Attention On DVD


William Kallay

“The Queen” is now available on DVD, and whether or not you're into the Royal Family story, this film is an outstanding look at the Queen Mum in the aftermath of Princess Diana's death in 1997.  Don't let the icy stare on the DVD cover scare you.  Helen Mirren gives one hell of a performance in Stephen Frears' film, "The Queen."

The disc contains the feature film in widescreen (1.85:1), a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix, a Dolby Digital 2.0 Spanish mix, an audio commentary track featuring director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Peter Morgan, and an audio commentary track with British historian and Royal expert Robert Lacey.  There is a making-of documentary included on the DVD.


If you're expecting a spectacular home theatre demonstration disc out of "The Queen," well, it's not going to happen.  The sound quality is perfectly in tune with the nature of the drama unfolding on-screen.  The film is dialogue driven, so be prepared to give your center channel speaker a slight workout.  The main soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and plays at 384kbps.  The Spanish language track plays at 192kpbs, as do the audio commentary tracks.  The sound is excellent all around.


"The Making Of 'The Queen'" is a good documentary, featuring mostly the principal actors and Stephen Frears talking about how the film was made.  Being a drama, the focus of this documentary is on how everyone prepared for their roles, as well as the actors' interpretation of the real life people they were portraying.  


Going into this film, I was expecting a laborious, talky BBC-style drama with costumes and endless scenes of the English countryside.  Excuse the pun, but not my cup-o-tea.  Yet, right from the moment I saw Helen Mirren as the Queen, I was hooked.  She made me believe that she was Queen Elizabeth The Second, and Mirren plays her role brilliantly.


The film takes place in the days before and after the tragic death of Princess Diana.  The Queen deals with her own feelings about Diana, as well as the public's affection for her.  We get a glimpse at the Royal Family, though the filmmakers state that this story is an interpretation of what transpired.  Prince Philip (James Cromwell) is portrayed as cold hearted about the Diana situation, but supportive of his wife's needs.  Prince Charles (Alex Jennings) is seen, despite his ugly divorce from Diana, as hurt by the loss.  He's also rather weak in the midst of his mother's company.  Her domineering personality overrides his character in every scene they're together.  Her Majesty The Queen Mother (Silvia Syms) is rather quiet through most of the film, but she's got a couple of witty lines throughout.  If one is into the whole Royal Family soap opera, they would come from this film hating the Royals.  Upon closer inspection, though, their family is similar to many families with the dislike of in-laws.


The Queen is out of tune with the modern times, holed up in her castle away from the paparazzi in London.  She mainly gets her news from the tele or newspaper, and takes frequent drives to the countryside to get away from it all.  It's apparent that she doesn't hold Diana in high regard, seeing her as an overrated icon, and nothing more.  Even some of the Parliament cabinet feel the same way.  In the aftermath shortly after Diana's death, Her Majesty keeps her distance from Prince Charles and her grandsons.  One might see this as cold and callous, but underneath the Queen's sheen, there is a beating heart.   


This is an actor's film, and one of the other surprises is Michael Sheen as Tony Blair.  Blair was elected to Parliament a few short months before Princess Diana and her boyfriend Doti Al-Fayed were killed in Paris.  He's thrust into the spotlight, trying to please the public, Her Majesty (who doesn't seem to respect him much), and make his mark.  He doesn't command the screen like Mirren's character, but he does his own manipulation behind the Queen's back and thus showing his newfound power.


The film, though, belongs to Mirren.  She is outstanding in her portrayal of the Queen.  Her role is one that ought to be studied by both acting students and some of the actors who now command high salaries.  Mirren blends into the role so well, that I forgot that I was watching an actress.  So many actors today overdo it.  By going into on-screen hysterics to really show off their "chops" (i.e. Halle Berry in "Monster's Ball"), we're clubbed over the head with "acting."  These kinds of scenes are usually shown during awards season, and the audience watching at home points at the television and declares, "That actor is going to win!"  And the actor usually does.  Mirren doesn't resort to screaming, crying and carrying on.  Hers is an understated role, yet she convinced me of the Queen's powerful presence.  Though her empire was falling around her, and the public wondered why the Queen didn't issue any statements soon after Diana's death, we see her looking into her own soul and struggling with it.  Mirren doesn't play the Queen for sympathy, but she does elicit respect, and somehow, heart filled empathy for her position in the tragedy.


Stephen Frears directs with a keen eye on making the story move along.  He doesn't resort to clever camerawork, nor does he slam you over the head with bold political statements.  Frears is one of the best directors we have today.  I haven't seen all of his films, but the ones I have seen, like "The Hit" (1984), "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988), "High Fidelity" (2000), and one of my all-time favorites, "The Grifters" (1990), show a director with a love for cinema and a love for telling a great story.


As an American, I never quite understood the whole Royal Family versus Princess Diana story.  There was a time, before Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston stared at you in the local supermarket, when Lady Di seemed to be on the cover of People Magazine every week.  The sensationalism was too much.  "The Queen" gave me a good understanding, possibly, of what the Royal Family was like.  It didn't give too much perspective into Diana and what made the Queen dislike her.  But it did give me more understanding that families, even royal ones, can be dysfunctional and normal. 

The Queen

Miramax Home Entertainment

Catalog Number 52081

Region 1


Dolby Digital 5.1

Dolby Digital 2.0 (Spanish)

DVD Release Date: April 24, 2007





103 minutes


Director: Stephen Frears

Cast: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Sylvia Syms, Alex Jennings


Special thanks to Mac McLean


IMAGES: © Miramax.  All rights reserved.




Copyright 2004-2007 From Script To DVD.  All rights reserved.


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