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August 18, 2009
The Queen Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
26/12/20068/4/2009Icon FilmsStephen Frears
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1Dolby TrueHD 5.1MHelen Mirren

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Helen Mirren, perfect as HRH Queen Elizabeth II.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting down with my parents discussing the tragic passing of Michael Jackson and the hysteria it created. I posed the question, who in this world could generate as much interest with their death. We came up with two names; Barack Obama, and The Queen. This movie follows the latter of those two people in an insightful, if perhaps slightly unrealistic, portray of the Royal Family in England.

When news of the death of Princess Diana, undoubtedly the most famous woman in the world, breaks upon a shocked and disbelieving British public, HRH Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) retreats behind the walls of Balmoral Castle with her family, unable to comprehend the public response to the tragedy. For Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), the popular and newly elected prime Minister, the people’s need for reassurance and support from their leaders is palpable. As the unprecedented outpouring of emotion grows ever stronger, Blair must find a way to reconnect the beloved Queen with the British public.

For the majority of the 100 minute runtime The Queen focuses on the week surrounding Princess Diana's tragic death in 1997. Much of the movie is taken from eyewitness accounts and interviews with key people although, as expected, none of the current Royal family or staff participated in the making of this film. With that in mind what we have here is a film, directed by Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, High Fidelity) that gives us an impression of what may have occurred with some historical accuracy, but without factual proof. Still, this is a riveting movie.

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Inspecting the floral tributes in The Queen.
Ultimately this movie comes down to one thing - Helen Mirren's portray of The Queen. Should she have been terrible this movie would have fallen apart, instead she is the absolute highlight, and was absolutely deserving of the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. Much of this praise must also go to the scriptwriter, Peter Morgan, who included the smaller nuances. Her Majesty's ability to drive a Land Rover, her love of hunting (and one of the best scenes in the movie where she pays tribute to a deer killed by a neighbour, while refusing to pay tribute to the late Princess Diana), and finally visiting the masses of floral tributes to Diana.

We will never know what actually happened behind closed doors with the Royal family in the week following Princess Diana's death, but it is certainly not unreasonable to see this film as a solid assumption of what took place. All actors in this movie put in fine performances, but the star is certainly Helen Mirren with her superb portrayal of the on the most watched, and loved, persons on this great planet of ours. The Queen is a stunning picture which I can watch over and over.

The Queen has been encoded on Blu-Ray using the VC-1 codec at the films original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The bitrate is often quite high, regularly in the 30Mbps range, and while many of the scenes take place indoors and look impressive (and we must add the detail to recreate the Royal families palace interiors is stunning), it's when the film heads to the outdoor scenes that the image really comes to life. Black levels are good, and the level of fine detail on objects impresses.

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Posing for a portrait.
Throughout the film the filmmakers have used news footage from the actual events - primarily for shots outside Buckingham Palace where the massive floral tribute grew in the days following Diana's death. Naturally the video quality of these newscasts aren't of the same quality as the movie, but it does give it a bit more of a documentary feel and isn't distracting.

There are two main audio tracks on this disc, a Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 640kbps, and a sensational DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The latter is certainly the track of choice with stunning clarity and fidelity. As you can imagine this is absolutely a dialogue driven movie and each character comes across with brilliant clarity. While there wasn't a tremendous amount of music in the movie the composed music from composer Alexandre Desplat who was nominated for an Academy Award for his efforts in this movie (and two years later was nominated again for his music in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).

There is only one subtitle track on this disc, that being English for the Hearing Impaired. We sampled this track for a while and it was accurate to the dialogue on screen with good pacing.

Despite the fantastic critical and commercial success we were somewhat dismayed to see that there was only a commentary and a short featurette about this film on the disc. Sadly the commentary with British Historian and Royal Expert Robert Lacey has been omitted from the Australian release of The Queen on Blu-Ray.

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The Queen really is a brilliant movie.
Audio Commentary by Director Stephen Frears and Writer Peter Morgan: This was an interesting commentary in which the two participants provide details about the making of this film, however it is very dry and really was quite a struggle to get through.

The Making of The Queen (19:31): This is a great little featurette which features interviews with most of the main participants in the movie and includes a look at becoming the characters, getting the look of the film right, and the actual events of Diana's death. It's only in Standard Definition but encoded using the AVC codec and it looks pretty good.

There is no doubt that The Queen is one of the most impressive looks at a person, living or dead, ever put to celluloid. The Royal family is one of the most secretive in the world, and this short look into their lives, or at least "what may have been", is riveting.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Icon Films. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.