(Review originally written at 9 June 2007)

An interesting viewpoint! I don't think anyone ever expected a movie to be made focusing on the Royal family during the events after the death of Princess Diana. As a matter of fact, I don't believe many people ever thought a movie would be made about Elizabeth II, at least not while she was still alive. In many ways this movie was a daring project. Also not in the least because it was about a delicate subject. The British Royal family is always a delicate subject but the death of Princess Diana is an all the more delicate subject, since it was an event that touched so many people all over the world because she was so loved everywhere. A daring project that payed off, judging by all the critical acclaim it received.

The British Royal family is perhaps one of the most inaccessible and distant still existing monarchies, since they rarely ever show their true emotions, which is mainly due to Elizabeth II, who always seems like an emotionally bland person with an always bland expression on her face. Tough for a movie to pick through this 'mask' to show the real humane side of the Royal family. This movie does attempt to do this by showing what happened behind the walls during the days after the fatal accident of Princess Diana in Paris. It provides an insightful view but we of course can only guess what truly went on behind the walls. It's viewpoint surely made this movie an interesting to watch but I don't feel that the movie always made the right choices with its storytelling.

I think this is one of those rare movies I wouldn't had mind seeing being 3 hours long. There is so much to tell, also about the characters and what they think and feel. Instead now the movie is even below 2 hours long that focuses on the entire Royal family and other key players. It has as a result that the queen and therefor also most of the movie its emotions gets pushed to the background at times, because of the many different other characters that are in the movie, with as a result that the Queen character still remains a sort of a mystery. I just don't feel that I now truly know who Elizabeth II is and what drives her and why she continues doing things the way she does. Yes, the movie created some more sympathy for her but I just wouldn't exactly considered it to be the ultimate resource about Elizabeth II.

The way the movie progresses is also rather predictable. The movie doesn't offer a lot of surprises, which is of course also due to the fact that the movie is based on true events. It makes the emotions and drama of the movie weaker, since it's too obvious how the movie is planned out and how it builds up to the inevitable ending. The movie only truly surprises with its characters. It was surprising to see that Prince Philip (James Cromwell) and the Queen Mother (Sylvia Syms) were even meaner, stiffer and old fashioned persons than the Queen herself. Especially Prince Philip was a surprise, since I only know him of TV, when he just walks behind the Queen and never does or says anything. When I was much younger I didn't even knew she still had an husband! I believe the first time I ever noticed him was during "Party at the Palace: The Queen's Concerts, Buckingham Palace" in 2002.

I've never been a big fan of using real archive footage in movies because it just never fully blends in with the rest of the movie and its atmosphere. This movie uses a lot of archive footage, from Princess Diana herself and of the people in the streets, giving their comments about the lack of response from the Royal family.

In the end the movie still becomes a bit too much of a respectful tribute to the royal family instead of an objective observation of the events. At least that's the feeling the ending gave me.

Aside from that all, the movie is a well made one. Stephen Frears is of course a competent director and he made the movie in the right atmosphere. Some of the sequences are really well constructed, which is also thanks to the fine cinematography and surprisingly good musical score.

Of course the movie would not had worked out at all of the actress playing the Queen didn't do her job right. With Oscar winner Helen Mirren you just can't go wrong. She really becomes the Queen in this movie and she even looks like her! Definitely true that her performance carries the movie. The rest of the cast doesn't really look like the real persons at all, which was a bit distracting. I mean I didn't ever saw Prince Philip, I just saw James Cromwell. And I didn't saw Prince Charles, I just saw a bloke trying to play Prince Charles. Michael Sheen also doesn't look much like Tony Blair, except in his last sequence, when his distinctive grin gets prominently shown. Nevertheless, through his fine acting, Martin Sheen is still highly credible in his role.

An interesting movie because of the point-view it is told from and a well made and good looking movie, that just isn't good enough with its drama and emotions and almost lets the story tell itself, which causes it to be rather predictable in how it unravels and builds up.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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