Set in the week following the death of Princess Diana, The Queen depicts the backstage parley between PM Blair and HM Elizabeth II. Of course, much of this is speculation (especially the scenes at Balmoral) and director Stephen Frears falls into the trap of gross caricaturing. Only Helen Mirren retains her dignity as the reigning monarch - just as it should be. Otherwise this plays like a bizarre dream that Rory Bremner might have after a late night cheese sandwich.
Bremner certainly has stiff competition from Michael Sheen whose rendering of Blair is unsettling and hilarious - bobbing around like a madly grinning Jack-in-the-Box before ever-present cameras. In suggesting that he saved the monarchy from demise, screenwriter Peter Morgan takes dramatic license too far. No doubt Blair's advice to the Queen led to historic breaks with protocol, but not enough time has elapsed to properly assess the impact of these seven days.
"LIKE REFUGEES FROM A SITCOM"
Morgan's biggest problem is getting inside Her Majesty's head. Cast as a traditionalist adrift in a fast-changing world, her public face remains her private one. That's except for a synthetic moment when the proverbial upper-lip quivers at the sight of a wild stag pegged for slaughter (a crass metaphor for you-know-who). It's left to Mirren to imply a general inner turmoil. Meanwhile the Queen Mother (Sylvia Syms) and Prince Philip (James Cromwell) come across like refugees from a sitcom. They slurp tea on the sofa, watching TV coverage of public mourning while Philip dishes out the insults. The tabloid appeal is obvious, but Morgan's script is tomorrow's chip paper.
The Queen is released in UK cinemas on Friday 15th September 2006.