The Queen Blu-ray Review
PictureThe Queen comes in with a 1.85:1 1080p VC-1 encoded image that comes in two flavours for the one film - the first, and most palatable is a pristine, practically perfect hi-def image that literally gleams, whilst the other is a very grainy, documentary look that is utilised whenever a non-Royal, though mainly Tony Blair, is on-screen.
When we are in the presence of Royalty, whether it be in the fabulously detailed residence at Buckingham Palace or the heatherlands way up North, the image is absolutely impeccable. Contrast is excellent and black levels are amongst the best that I have ever seen, profoundly deep and solid, yet still managing to reveal subtle detail within the shadows. Although the picture may be a little downplayed in regards to the spectrum, the colours - especially the primaries - are gloriously rich and defined when called upon. Tellingly, the flower tributes and memorials for Diana that line the railings outside Buck House literally spring from the screen with life and terrific vibrancy. Skin-tones are absolutely near-perfect, with close-ups revealing pores that you may not have wanted to see but contained within natural-looking faces that really do look as if the characters are sitting just a few feet away from you.
Detail is also excellently handled. The furnishings of the Royal rooms just beg to be explored further and the picture that houses them offers up even the furthest object - vase, painting or book - for scrutiny without any digital error to mar them. The wilds north of the border are just as vividly presented and exhibit a fantastic three-dimensionality that is especially rewarding during the aerial flybys that Frears utilises. Detail on the stag and on the wind-wafted grass and the stones lining the riverbed are scintillating.
But then there is that afore-mentioned second flavour. Yep, the grainy one. Almost certainly a stylistic device employed to differentiate the world of the Royals from the humdrum society that supports them, the effect has it that whenever Tony Blair appears away from the Queen's company, he is absolutely festooned with grain. Whether at home, in the back of a limo or in his rooms at Downing Street, he and whoever he is with are stippled with the stuff. Reminiscent of a gritty TV drama-doc, the look is quite startlingly at odds with the crisp and beautiful imagery transforming the rest of the film. Now, as I say, if this is intentional - then fine, I get it and it works. If it isn't, however, then we have a disc transfer that is unbelievably divided. Of course, this is all down to the film stock used during certain sequences, therefore, I believe that the effect is purely intended by Stephen Frears. However, I did notice some noise fuzzing about in some quarters of the image at times and there is also at least one shot of Tony Blair when he appears to have a greenish edge down one side of his face. But hey, I'm really nitpicking here, folks. For the most part, The Queen has a simply mesmerising picture.
SoundAlthough predominantly dialogue based, The Queen benefits from its PCM Uncompressed track with a much wider and sharper soundfield. There is never a moment when speech is eclipsed by music or fx, and everyone comes across with a natural-sounding quality that manages to place their voices realistically within the listening environment - be it the splendour of the rooms at Buckingham Palace or Balmorel, or the airfield tarmac, the vast open tracts of Royal heath and heather in the Highlands, or the tense hubbub of Downing Street.
But, whilst the track is hardly one to show off the aural beauty of PCM - forget the sub, folks - it does utilise the rear speakers occasionally and certainly manages to create a realistic sense of ambience throughout the many crowd scenes and still sends voices around the set-up with a transparent and seamless steerage. The major thing that the track achieves is to provide a tremendous impetus to Desplatz's score, which is projected with terrific dynamism from the mainly subtle design. There is a lot of power behind the pivotal paparazzi chase, Desplat's music really pounding out from a wide and forceful frontal array. The quieter moments, of tranquillity in Scotland and reflection before TV broadcasts, are also handled well, with the soothing mid-range filtering around the set-up with warmth and exceptional clarity.
There is a DD 5.1 track as well, but this pales when compared to the PCM. It just doesn't have the same openness or natural range that the uncompressed track supplies and some of the verbal directionality sounds a little cluttered. So, it has to be the PCM, folks.
ExtrasThere are two commentaries accompanying the film. The first, with Stephen Frears and Peter Morgan is dry and a little un-rewarding which, given the tone of the piece and the subject matter it revolves around, isn't all that surprising. The filming and the casting are covered quite well, but I felt under-whelmed by the less-then-spontaneous approach adopted. They don't even mention that reflection in the window, yet Frears recalls shooting some inserts for that very scene, so he is definitely paying attention to what is happening on screen.
The second one, from historian and Royal expert Robert Lacey is, interestingly, free of the starched pomposity that I, for one, expected. He delivers a nice treatise on whether or not the Queen would actually say “Bugger it!” in real life, and how acquainted she is with mobile phones, but he doesn't mention the face in the glass, either!
The Making Of documentary features all the main players, from Frears and his production designer to Mirren, Sheen and Allam. Although not as comprehensive as you might have liked, considering the depth and accuracy that they brought to the screen, this is still a good, albeit brief, look at what went into bringing such a strange, large-scale-yet-intimate story to life. Running for 19.29 mins, this remains a pleasing-enough glimpse behind the scenes and provides a fair bit of insight into how each performer found the key to playing such important roles.
There are also a few trailers for the BD releases of The Guardian, Déjà vu, Invincible and the excellent The Prestige, as well as the rather naff, but ubiquitous, Movie Showcase feature
VerdictA far better film than I had originally suspected it would be, The Queen boldly wrestles with a still-contentious issue and manages to stay sensitive to the emotional core that could have proved its undoing if handled by a lesser talent. Helen Mirren is uncannily authentic as the Queen and thoroughly deserving of her little golden statuette for a performance that is dignified, resonant and memorable. Michael Sheen is marvellous too and proves to be a tremendously versatile actor.
This BD-25 release boasts an excellent image (when it isn't promoting the grainy documentary look) and sound that is perfectly adequate without ever pushing the boundaries of what PCM can do. Extras-wise, there really isn't a lot going on, although what we do get is fairly worth your time if you have been, in any way, touched by the story and its impact.
The Queen comes highly recommended whatever your feelings surrounding the Royal Family and the tragic events surrounding Diana's shocking death. Bolstered by barnstorming performances, Morgan's screenplay draws you in regardless of your politics and the drama is teased out in a non-showy, reserved and intimate fashion that perfectly complements the overwrought melodramatics that the world, at large, seemed to exhibit. Excellent stuff.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £21.67
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