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Return to 2006 Films

Index of 2006

An Inconvenient Truth
Big Bad Swim
Brokeback Mountain
Cinderella Man
The Departed
The DaVinci Code
Eron: The Smartest
Guys in the Room

Good Night and
Good Luck

Half Nelson
History of Violence
Hotel Rwanda
Little Miss Sunshine
Journey from the Fall
March of the Penguins
Million Dollar Baby
Prairie Home Companion
Star Wars III:
Revenge of the Sith

Thank You for Smoking
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
The Sea Inside
United 93
War of the Worlds
Walk the Line
World Trade Center

The Queen

a review by Tom Condon, OP

Film Synopis:
A revealing, witty portrait of the British royal family in crisis immediately following the death of Princess Diana. The setting for this fictional account of real events is no less than the private chambers of the Royal Family and the British government in the wake of the sudden death of Princess Diana in August of 1997.

Most of us remember well the amazing week in 1997 after the tragic death of Princess Diana. Even in the U.S., we were riveted to the television screen by the coverage of the death and funeral of the beautiful young princess. The distance of the royal family stood in stark contrast to the outpouring of sentiment from the common people of Britain and throughout the world. The Queen takes us behind the scenes of that week, telling the story from the perspective of Queen Elizabeth.

What surprised me about this fascinating film is that I expected the Queen to be seen as the villain. On the contrary, I left the theater feeling that I understood her, even to the point of experiencing sympathy for Elizabeth. Elizabeth seemed surprised to find herself suddenly thrust into the center of a huge controversy, and ill-prepared to deal with it. Prince Philip, the Queen Mother, and all her staff advised Elizabeth to keep a distance and not interfere with the preparations of Diana’s family. Elizabeth protects Diana’s sons from the public eye, sending them hunting at Balmoral, the royal estate in Scotland. Charles comes across as an odd figure, still seeming to be in love with Diana. Charles disagrees with his Mother’s actions, but does not want to criticize her.

It is the newly elected Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who eventually persuades Elizabeth to return to London, lower the flags to half-staff, and make a televised public statement. Much of the film is about the back-and-forth between the young, charismatic Blair, and the iconic Queen, desperately clinging to tradition.

The Queen really is about the dawning of a new era, when the established royal customs finally yield to the new era of media and public expressions of emotion. In the extraordinary final dialogue between Elizabeth and Blair, she admits that she had been trained to be restrained in her public display, not to wear her emotions on her sleeve. She assumed that was what her people wanted. In a beautifully touching moment, the Queen admits that she had never been hated before by her people. Through the whole experience, and especially through her relationship with Tony Blair, the Queen actually seems more human at the end of the film. She has adapted to her time, and listened to the counsel of others to go against tradition and do what she needed to do for the good of the people. In this manner, The Queen is a lesson in leadership, learning to change and adapt when necessary.

As Queen Elizabeth, Helen Mirren gives a stunning performance. From the wonderful opening sequence, in which she sits for a portrait, until her final walk in the palace garden with Tony Blair, Mirren is utterly convincing in her speech, her expressions, her bearing, even down to the Queen’s walk. She’s had a lot of experience playing royalty, most recently in her award winning performance as Elizabeth I on HBO. The rest of the cast is equally fine, especially Michael Sheen as Blair, James Cromwell as Prince Philip, and Sylvia Syms as the Queen Mother. Only Alex Jennings as Prince Charles strikes an odd note, sometimes siding with his family, other times with Blair. Perhaps that is an accurate portrayal of Charles during this time of crisis.

Much credit should also go to director Stephen Frears (who also directed the great Dangerous Liaisons) and screenwriter Peter Morgan for their fine work.

The tension between tradition and the contemporary world so well examined in The Queen serves as a good reflection for those in church (and secular) leadership today who struggle with the tensions between tradition and contemporary culture. As with Elizabeth, I hope that we may endure the conflicts that will inevitably arise in any form of leadership, that we will listen to good counsel, and reveal our humanity in the midst of the struggle.

Tom Condon, OP

Genres: Art/Foreign and Drama

Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.

Release Date: September 30th, 2006 (NY)

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language.

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