18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A CLOSE CALL,
This review is from: The Queen [DVD]  (DVD)
There are several themes to this excellent and most original and interesting film; but what it is about more than anything else is how political regimes and whole dynasties can be undone on account of a single error of judgment. It is only near the end that Her Majesty warns her prime minister that this will happen to him, and happen suddenly and without warning. It had nearly happened to her, he had been the saving of her on this occasion, and her dire prediction for him probably holds an uneasy message for herself too.
At the start the Queen is full of regal self-assurance, neatly putting her boyish and slightly nervous novice of a prime minister in his place by telling him he is sitting where Churchill once sat. In next to no time the positions are reversed, as Blair's acute political antennae tell him that HM is in imminent danger of losing her subjects' allegiance, something that would have been unimaginable only days previously, through trusting her own judgment and listening to the advice of her husband and her mother in respect of how to react to the death of Princess Diana. Throughout the crisis Blair is adroit and sure-footed, the monarch is made to realise bitterly from the newspapers how he has it right and she has been hopelessly at sea, but unlike her family counsellors she has the wit to swallow her pride and retrieve the situation before it slides beyond retrieval. This one incident could have undone a lifetime of unswerving dedication, universally acknowledged, to her country, and put the skids under the House of Windsor itself. Her warning to Blair is really made from a new sense of respect and a shocked realisation of how quickly and brutally the tables can turn. And how right she has been. This film does not make the matter explicit, but any viewer can sense the irony of Blair's own political fate. For years he seemed unable to put a foot wrong as far as the public were concerned, his luck was near-incredible (and his political nous was enormously greater than Churchill's); and then he blew it all with one foolish and ill-considered assertion in the Commons about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Just one mistake, when one is not sensing danger, is enough.
The depiction of the main players is brilliant, and I found it fascinating to guess just how accurate it may be. Leaks, rumours, gossip and memoirs certainly descend on the public these days like leaves in Vallombrosa, giving us some shaky basis for forming a judgment. In the nature of the case a prime minister has to make himself (or herself) familiar to a rightly suspicious electorate, but a monarch should always retain some mystique, and the other dramatis personae, even the heir to the throne, are only intermittently in the limelight. Inevitably and rightly the film's characterisation is creative, but it is coherent and convincing provided one does not mistake it for portraiture from life. The acting has been widely praised and I concur entirely. The atmosphere is beautifully touched in too, from the family life of the Blairs (and the Windsors) to the blokeish informality of the New Labour apparatchiks in Downing Street and above all the hushed flunkeyish reverence accorded to the Queen, cocooning her in the chrysalis that nearly devoured her.
I hope there is no possibility of a sequel, as a masterpiece like this should be left unique. Within days now Her Britannic Majesty will be welcoming a new prime minister whom she probably suspects of being a closet republican, as I suspect he is too. I shall be watching out all the same for one thing that this film says clearly through the lips of Cherie Blair, something to the effect that all Labour prime ministers finish up devoted to the Queen. Maybe it will be the same story with Brown, but I wonder how matters will stand once the monarch is no longer Elizabeth II. When that becomes the case the story of Princess Diana is likely to open a new chapter.