Saturday, July 07, 2007

THE QUEEN MOVIE REVIEW

















CAST: HELEN MIRREN, MICHAEL SHEEN, JAMES CROMWELL, ROGER ALAM, ALEX JENNINGS
DIRECTOR: STEPHEN FREARS
RUNTIME: 103 min.
RATING: ***** (MASTERPIECE)
GENRE: DOCUDRAMA, BIOPIC

What a privilege to have been witness to such a wonderful motion picture. A cinematic triumph so tender, so gentle yet so powerful. This is the rarest of cinema; this is the reason why a motion picture is such an important medium of art, maybe the most important medium of art. I’m writing this review but I’m at a loss of words to describe it. I cannot explain in simple words how such an economic work can be so breathtakingly beautiful and powerful at the same time.
I have always had the least interest for the royal family except for of course, the “People’s Princess”. I always was one of the millions who looked on the Queen as a stoic bigot, a monarchy that has its days counting. THE QUEEN shatters that blissful ignorance and the collective celebrity worshipping mentality of the present times. And it doesn’t go the way with ham-fisted dialogues; it treads the path with utmost delicateness. It is a work of great intelligence and subtle intensity, every frame greatly observant of the varying moods. I’m at a loss of words at describing how affected I’m by this movie at the moment, but all I can say is this is one of the finest motion pictures I have seen. THE QUEEN represents cinema at its finest, at its peak- accessible to the lowest commonest denominator yet compromising nowhere on quality. I just cannot stress enough how wonderfully gentle and beautiful this movie was, and such a wonderful character study.
When a movie is this good, I lack the heart to divulge any more of the plot. Briefly put, THE QUEEN occurs during the most turbulent times in recent history of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren), the death of Princess Diana.
The most obvious thing to be lauded here, the one element that has won plaudits from every corner is Helen Mirren’s performance. The resemblance isn’t just skin deep, Mirren is the Queen right down to her soul. The toughest thing about playing a real life character isn’t just imitating the person; it is bringing a depth, bringing sensitivity to the portrayal and making the audience feel it. Mirren accomplishes much, much more. Not only she brings the “stoic bigot” to life, she still preserves the image of the Queen even in the “behind the scenes” sequences. The mysterious inner self is always present and that is the true masterwork by Mirren. Although the entire movie with each and every frame with Mirren in it is breathtaking, one sequence in particular brought a lump in my throat. The Queen, when arrives amongst the public to pay respects to Diana and finds all sorts of nasty comments is such an astonishing achievement not only in acting but the entire process of filmmaking as a whole. This will be the sequence that will always come to my mind when I think of this movie. Arguably one of the finest performances I have ever seen.
But that is not where the good performances end. Everyone is wonderful, wonderful in their roles. Michael Sheen’s is another wonderful performance. He so effectively captures the easy going personality of Tony Blair. Part of it owes to his previous effort at playing the same man in the TV drama THE DEAL but we would know him more from the UNDERWORLD movies. James Cromwell as Philip is fantastic too. In fact, the performances collectively are as good as any I have seen in recent times.
The script by Peter Morgan, who wrote another winner this year in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, is the primary source of the beautiful poignancy of the film. There’s precious little in the way of a plot to traverse but Morgan comes up with a thoroughly engaging and thought provoking screenplay, laced with witty moments. As for historical accuracy, I’m the last person to comment on it. But the proceedings sure have a feel of authenticity going for them, something that sure is a rarity.
I have always enjoyed Stephen Frears (HIGH FIDELITY, DANGEROUS LIAISONS, Mrs. HENDERSON PRESENTS) works but never have felt so completely blown away as I’m here. I cannot think of another director, especially an American one who could have handled the subject. Frears not only gives a new benchmark to the “docudrama” movies, he infuses the proceedings with the same dignity and intelligence as the subject in question. THE QUEEN could have so easily been a tabloid-gossip-event-chain. But in the hands of Frears and coupled with a fantastic script and intelligent performances, this is a reflection of where our sentiments as a mass lie. It isn’t good or bad, it is just two schools of thought. The Queen isn’t one who wears her heart on her sleeve and she definitely isn’t one to show emotions in public. She believes in duty before self. And then there are the present times where easily accessible leaders/celebrities are the ones sought by the mass, howsoever fake it may be. I just might know where Frears sentimentalities lie and that has lot to do with the sequence which involves Blair’s outburst over his staff’s criticism of the Queen. When the traumatic days are over, the Queen tells Blair about the fickle nature of the tabloids’ headlines. Frears sure had a thing or two to convey to Blair there.
The movie has made me question my ignorant support for Diana over her former in-laws. It has made me question the stereotype we all have of the Royal family. But more so, it made me think about the Royal family, an exercise that nothing has ever been able to compel me to perform.
The movie in many ways reminds me of the Cuban Missile crisis drama THIRTEEN DAYS. There’s something innately romantic about real life characters and especially world leaders being portrayed like regular people. And when it comes to the Royal family, it is much more than mere romantic. It is thought provoking, thanks to THE QUEEN.
Tell you what; I’ve already taken tickets for the show day after tomorrow. A movie as beautiful as this ought to be savored to the fullest possible.

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