It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The opening shots of Stephen Frears' "The Queen" simply show Helen Mirren's face as her character prepares for it to be seen. She is Queen Elizabeth II, and we know that at once. The resemblance is not merely physical, but embodies the very nature of the Elizabeth we have grown up with -- a private woman who takes her public role with great gravity.
Elizabeth is preparing to meet Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), the new Labor prime minister who has just been elected in a landslide. We see Blair preparing for the same meeting. His election was a fundamental upheaval of British political life after Thatcherism, and at that time, Britain stood on a threshold of uncertain but possibly tumultuous change.
Within months, the queen and Blair find themselves in a crisis that involves not politics but a personal tragedy that was completely unforeseen -- the death of Diana, princess of Wales, in a Paris car crash. "The Queen" tells the story of how her death with her boyfriend, the playboy department store heir Dodi Fayed, would threaten to shake the very monarchy itself.
Told in quiet scenes of proper behavior and guarded speech, "The Queen" is a spellbinding story of opposed passions -- of Elizabeth's icy resolve to keep the royal family separate and aloof from the death of the divorced Diana, who was legally no longer a royal, and of Blair's correct reading of the public mood, which demanded some sort of public expression of sympathy from the crown for "The People's Princess."