It's 1997 and Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) has just been named the new British Prime Minister. His wife Cherie not exactly the biggest Royal fan, leading to a little awkward tension when Blair is sworn in by Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren).
The death of Princess Diana is announced a few weeks later causing the Queen to become a recluse. This is to the anger of the British people, who demand that the Royals make a public appearance. Can the newly elected Prime Minister persuade his Queen to respect the public's wishes?
Released a mere ten years after the events depicted in the film, The Queen is a very contemporary film. It is also a politically charged film, focusing on the affairs of state and their interaction with the Prime Minister's office rather than on the more traditional side of the Royal family. Any film that covers the death of "The People's Princess" was always going to be one that was monitored closely by the media - but also one that was always likely to perform well in the British box office.
Contrary to the popular tabloid caricature, Blair is depicted as one who aided the Royal family through their struggles and more often than not the Royals are seen as bumbling fools - especially in the case of Prince Philip. Cherie Blair is also shown as a conniving Republican who would like nothing more than to depose the Queen. Whether any of these views are true, or not, is only known to those close to the situation, but the film doesn't do itself any favours by varying between pandering to public opinion and creating its own.
In truth, The Queen is rescued by its two protagonists. Michael Sheen is the perfect smiling Blair, and who better to portray the Queen than another British icon in Helen Mirren. Mirren gets across the dilemmas facing the Queen whilst correctly keeping her dignity in tact, while Sheen borders on comedic at times while he struggles to control a British icon despite having far more important things to be getting on with.
Not perfect by any means, but good casting saves the day.