The Queen is a quiet film, full of British propriety. For those that have somehow been living under a rock this past year, Helen Mirren gives a phenomenal performance as the Queen of England, and her actions in the days following the death of Princess Diana. The film does not sensationalize Diana's death – in fact, I was surprised at how well such delicate subject matter was handled.
The film is great. The special features are not. Well, I shouldn't say they are bad, they just are non-existent. All that is offered on this disc is audio commentary and a "Making Of" documentary; both of which now seem as standard as cutting a trailer for a film.
The Queen doesn't just explore the reaction of the royals to Diana's death, but it also explores the actions of newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the reactions of the country and the world. While Queen Elizabeth was largely vilified for holding her public tongue after Diana's death, the film makes her out to be a somewhat sympathetic character. The image it gives of Queen Elizabeth is that somewhere she feels that the cold shoulder she is giving Diana and her death is not entirely right, but her notions of propriety and tradition – with the added influence of her husband Philip, the Queen Mum, and others – prevent her from breaking custom.
Almost equal time is given to Tony Blair (though The Prime Minister isn't as snappy a title), who is at the opposite end of the spectrum as the Royals. He was obviously elected to office – by a landslide, no less – because the British people wanted a change in rule, wanted to distance themselves from the antiquated monarchy. It is a struggle between the monarchy's propriety and Blair's government's humanity. In the end, Blair wins out and convinces the Queen to speak for Diana, and in doing so, saves her reputation.
The audio commentary was incredibly dull — British people sitting around, telling boring stories ("There is a story behind her putting on earrings in the car – we realized she wasn't wearing any in the previous scene and she is in the next"). Director Stephen Frears and writer Peter Morgan often talk over one another, making it near impossible to decipher what they are trying to say. Interestingly enough, when there are pauses in the conversation, the movie audio does not come back up, leaving brief stretches of near-silence. I have never been a fan of DVD commentaries, but this one is especially dreadful.
The documentary is no better. Standard interviews with director and stars. The only interesting part was hearing the actors talk about their reactions, and the world's reaction, to Princess Diana's death. The majority of the documentary has the stars of the film talking about what it was like to play real people. Nothing new or insightful there.
Luckily the film itself is reason enough to buy the DVD. Spectacularly written, acted, and directed, The Queen doesn't need fancy extras to impress.