Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Starring: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James
Running Time: 113 mins
Synopsis: During the last two years of her life, Princess Diana embarks on a final rite of passage: a secret love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan.
It was inevitable that a film based on the troubled and indeed controversial life of Princess Diana would be made into a major motion picture at some point, especially after the successes of THE QUEEN, and the more recent THE KING’S SPEECH, two celebrated films that attracted both BAFTA and Oscar glory. Any film tackling this difficult subject matter will come under extremely close scrutiny, and the fact that an A-list star like Naomi Watts has chosen to play the huge role of the Princess Of Wales should be applauded for her bravado alone; it’s just a shame that an awfully flat script, plodding direction and substandard production values fail to back up said courage in assuming the part of the one-time ‘most famous woman in the world.’
The film focuses on the final two years of the Princess’s life, notably her relationship with Pakistan born heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, a romance that was instantly dismissed by Kensington Palace at the time. Naveen Andrews, whose most famous role up until this point was in the J.J. Abrams hit TV series LOST, lends solid support in the the central role of Khan. It’s true to say that he provides the best performance of the piece, even overshadowing Watts’ reasonable attempt at playing a role that’s very much been deemed unplayable; indeed each scene that she’s in, the viewer finds themselves examining every movement, every whisper of speech and every mannerism that she makes.
German director Oliver Hirschbiegel was an interesting choice of helmer for this, and he almost seems out of his comfort zone with the sensitiveness of the material, despite acing it with one of his previous films, the biopic surrounding the final days of Hitler; the superb DOWNFALL. Here, the story drags massively in places, and feels massively far-fetched and over-dramatised in others, particularly the ending, which borders on offensive.
The most difficult scenes to watch in this film are the more intimate scenes between Diana and Khan, not due to anything explicit being on display, but because the one thing that the Princess managed to keep under wraps, away from the prying eyes of the press, the paparazzi, or indeed us as members of the public, is on display now for all to see. As a viewer this makes you feel uncomfortable, voyeuristic and at times ready to head for the exit doors. It’s overlong, massively, but you can’t help but feel some aspects of the story were skimmed over; for example, the final fifteen minutes devoted to the affair that Diana had with Dodi leading up to the fateful night of 31st August 1997.
I type this realising that I’m coming across as a huge Diana devotee, and anti-Royalist, which isn’t the case on either point, but the film itself is very one-sided and is relentless in reminding us just how great a person Diana was, with the story seemingly stopping every so often throughout so that she can physically stop and inject a member of the public with random act of kindness.
Overall, for a film that should have fired debate, fires nothing more than a damp squib. Empty, over-exaggerated, tasteless, at times annoying and boring, but overall, mostly unsatisfying.
DIANA is released in the UK on 20th September 2013.