In The Queen, Helen Mirren, as Queen Elizabeth II, does an exhilarating, death-defying tightrope walk in sensible shoes, and Michael Sheen, as her new Labor prime minister, Tony Blair, spots her brilliantly.
It would be amazing enough simply for Mirren to adopt a stance, a mind-set, an eye-set of redoubtable discernment and rectitude when she first meets with Blair. But when the queen is with her family, Mirren adopts a brusqueness, vigor and dry humor that match the public figure in weight and plausibility. And though Blair and the queen, in the course of the film, conduct their relationship mostly through intermediaries and on the phone, Sheen gives Blair such an extraordinarily appealing combination of ardor and earnestness, you can feel her respond to him at a distance or secondhand. He moves her to judge herself quite ruthlessly and change into a more flexible ruler. Together or apart (but especially together), they put on quite a show.
The Queen (Miramax) Starring Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen. Directed by Stephen Frears. Rated PG-13. Time 97 minutes.