The Queen : Helen Mirren will deserve her best actress Oscar when it is presented later in the month. Not that a current performance always has much to do with winning an Oscar. Usually seen as a reward for many fine efforts, longevity or for an overlooked gem (which is why Marty Scorsese will win Best Director, not because The Departed is necessarily that deserving), Mirren does actually produce a performance that is every bit as good as anything she has done and no other nominee has done better.
While the make-up department make Mirren look like Her Maj., it is her poise and manner of speaking that make it easy to accept her in that role. And so it is with the other main characters : Tony Blair, Prince Charles and Prince Philip. While none of the actors who play these roles look exactly like the person whom they are playing, unlike Mirren who does, it does not take long before their speech patterns and style allow us to become involved in the drama and not be continuously challenging who we see on screen.
While the script takes some liberties in suggesting that England was on the verge of a revolt toward the monarchy after Diana died, it carefully and evenly fleshs out what might have happened behind the scenes. In particular with conversations between the prime minister and his monarch.
For me, having lived through the experience of Diana’s death as an adult (unlike say, JFK’s assassination which occurred before my time) the film transported me back to my emotions and memories of that time. I was surprised in 1997 how affected I was by Diana’s death (not having known her personally or particularly caring about the royal family, one way or another) and perhaps more so, how affected so many thousands of others were. A great sequence in the film is the slow build up of flowers outside of Buckingham Palace : thousands upon thousands of bouquets piled up in front of the gate. It is this emotional attachment to the film that allows me to recommend it more strongly than just another character drama with fine acting.