The Queen [Blu-ray]
(Stephen Frears - 2006)
Review by Leonard Norwitz
Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment (USA)
Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 24,748,361,222 bytes
Feature Size: 21,162,989,568 bytes
Average Bitrate: 19.79 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: April 24th, 2007
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Feature film: 1080p / VC-1
LPCM Audio English 4608 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4608 kbps /
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround
English SDH, French and Spanish
• Commentary by the Director & Writer
• Commentary by British Royal Historian, Robert Lacey
• Featurette: The Making of The Queen
The Queen ~ Comment
Elizabeth's uncle, Edward VIII (to whom Alex Jennings, the actor that plays Prince Charles in Frears' movie, bears a striking resemblance), abdicated in Nov 1936 to marry the already twice-divorced American (with living ex-husbands, no less!), Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Wallis was afterward designated the "Duchess of Windsor" (minus the"HRH" – the title of "Her Royal Highness"). Edward's brother reluctantly assumed the throne as George VI, and died, it was believed by the Royals, a premature death in 1952. Elizabeth, having been thrust into the main line of the family by the Abdication, became Queen in 1952 at the age of 25 (her coronation followed a year later). She had already married Prince Philip in 1947. Charles was born a year later. Her own mother, also Elizabeth, was the Queen Consort of George VI, and died only recently in 2002 at the age 101.
Diana Spencer was born in 1961 into an aristocratic family that had ties with the Royal Family for centuries. So it was no accident that she came to meet and eventually marry Elizabeth's oldest son, Charles, the then – and current – Prince of Wales. She was 20, the same age that Elizabeth married Philip. Less than ten years later they were each embroiled in well-publicized affairs that in due course led to their separation and divorce. As a result she lost the "HRH" and became simply the "Princess of Wales." She was, after all, still the mother of the second and third in line to succeed Elizabeth (proceeded only by their father.) Diana was killed in an automobile accident in Paris in August of 1997. Despite massive public sympathy and grief, the Royal Family could not shake the previous ten years of strain and, from their point of view, indignities, due to the sensational and public nature of Diana's life. (Charles was no great source of solace through it all, but he was more discreet and less pursued by paparazzi.)
One of the better films of 2006, The Queen gives us only a glimpse into the complex private and public lives of the Royal Family (one wisecrack about the estranged Princess Margaret by Elizabeth is about all we get.) Watching this Blu-ray edition in the privacy and sharp focus of my high definition theatre, I found myself appreciating even more the subtleties of the performances by Helen Mirren (who took home the Oscar) as Elizabeth II and Michael Sheen (underrated, I thought, then and now) as Tony Blair, especially with the help of historian Robert Lacey's commentary.
The Score Card
The Movie : 8.5
Sandwiched between Tony Blair's initial audience with the queen in May of 1997 and his next meeting with her in October was the shattering week immediately following the death of Diana. It is this week that this film is concerned, and how and the extent to which the attitudes of its principal players were moderated by it. Blair was already the Labour Party leader for several years and became Prime Minister in a campaign to "modernize" the government in May of 1997. However, the public and media reaction to the royal family's lack of public reaction to Diana's death put old and new values at loggerheads. In the film, Blair is seen as concerned that the monarchy was in jeopardy of losing the respect (or worse) of its people; and the prime minister found himself - gradually and by virtue of what he swore to uphold - in support of the future of the royal family. It's a fascinating and subtle screenplay, reminiscent, in its way, of Jean Anouilh's Becket, where we see how the office changed the man and his relation with the king, despite the prior expectations of both.
Image : 8
Miramax relies on a film image that's not of demonstration quality to begin with. In this regard, The Queen is about as good as many movies these days. Shooting on location generally results in variable image quality: sharpness, depth of field, and color consistency are not priorities. The drama is expected to carry the day – and in this case it does. Still the Blu-ray transfer is a serious improvement over the SD in a number of the usual ways, but also in respect to color saturation and accuracy, whose pastel palette did not come off to good advantage in the SD. The BD's tendency to grain and softness here and there is less of a problem than you might imagine since without it, the many scenes leading into and from the archive and faux-archive footage, mostly originally televised, would have been jarring.
Audio & Music : 8/8
Unremarkable audio – which, in this case is probably a good thing. What we require, and get, is dialogue which, except for the fact that it is sometimes in a foreign language is clear, concise, never emphasized or tweaked for extra "clarity." Alexandre Desplat's music score is used sparingly, but to good effect. In case we weren't noticing as the movie went along, we get to hear how nice it is over the end titles.
Empathy : 8.5
The picture and sound supports the screenplay, which does not present a magnifying glass to events so much as a reflection. Occasionally, but not often, we can see clearly into the living rooms and public spaces in and around what we take to be the royal palace. It's gratifying to know how our tax dollars are spent.
Operations : 7
I found the scene selection search menu a bit precious, since it was difficult to see, even on a seven-foot screen, that the desired thumbnails had been selected or titled with their chapter names.
Extras : 8
Sparse as it is, the commentary of historian Robert Lacey, is essential if you are interested in a relatively unbiased perspective on the royal family and specifically, the events of the week after Diana's death. We all have our prejudices about their relationship, as do the filmmakers, so stepping back from these can be an brain-opening experience, not least in that Lacey is just as willing to cast a critical eye on Diana's behavior as he is on Elizabeth and Blair.
August 12th, 2007
Revisited: August 23rd, 2010