The Queen (2006)

The Queen is almost a paean to traditionalism – but only almost. The movie is a dramatic presentation of the British royal family’s reaction to Princess Diana’s death. Helen Mirren’s magnificent Elizabeth II is portrayed as emotionally stunted in her reaction to the Princess’s death, and Prince Charles is played as a manipulative seven-year-old girl by Alex Jennings – but, whatever the title of the movie, the real protagonist is Michael Sheen’s Tony Blair, whose shift from moderate anti-royalist sympathies to a much more profound appreciation for the institution of monarchy is the real center of the film.

Without Blair, the film would be nothing more than a character study – albeit an exceedingly well-executed one. With him, however, it becomes a study in the effects of modernization on human society. The questions of whether public sentiment or historic royal protocol is more important, or if a monarch has responsibilities which transcend and eclipse any consideration of the will of the people, for example, are given uncommonly serious and even-handed treatment. Ultimately, though, it is left to the actors to carry the film (which they do excellently, aided by Peter Morgan’s generally superb screenplay), as the film finally gives up the tension and falls into the sort of blasé capitulation to “modernization” that is typical of so much recent British media.

–ap

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