Lots of words and film have paid tribute to the late Princess Diana through the years since her tragic death in a 1997 automobile accident, but like many others I would admit to knowing little about her relationships after her divorce from Prince Charles. It is in that area that the film Diana tends to look, and at one interesting era in general.
Based on a book from Kate Snell, Stephen Jeffreys (The Libertine) adapted it into a screenplay which Oliver Hirschbiegel (The Invasion) directed. Focusing on the period from 1995 when she met Khan to shortly before her death, Diana, Princess of Wales is portrayed by Naomi Watts (The Impossible). When the husband of her long-time friend and acupuncturist is rushed to the hospital, she goes to lend her support, and as the trip unfolds, she runs into Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews, Lost), who works as a surgeon at the hospital. Their relationship blossoms and is shown over the course of the film, and some of the extremes Diana undertook to be with Khan are shown, such as donning different wigs or sneaking him into her residence past a supposedly unknowing security team. The relationship is deep and well-meaning, and Diana is devoted enough to the point of traveling to Pakistan to meet Khan's family. Additionally, Khan continues to work while Diana undertook causes such as AIDS treatment and cures and the elimination of land mine usage. And the romance is chronicled over the course of the movie.
I have always enjoyed Andrews' performances and have thought he would make a good romantic lead. Folks who watched the arc between Sayid and Shannon in Lost play out may be familiar with what I mean. In Andrews' expressions you can see the passion and/or pain in a given scene, and he seems to go stride for stride with Watts in their scenes together quite nicely, and watching their sharing moments in Diana is a pleasant and even engaging time, capturing the intimacy between the two with a Richard Curtis-like knack. The pretense of each other's titles is tossed out the window and they view each other for who they are, not what they do.
As the one responsible for carrying most of the film, Watts' assumption of the former Princess of Wales is very good. Hirschbiegel does a convincing job in showing us Diana's isolation early into the film, and Watts communicates this isolation well. And in Diana the character, the impressions to draw from the movie are that while some of her gestures have good intentions, she seems to have little grasp of how impactful they may be. Consider that in a scene in Diana where Khan is wondering which hospital he will actually practice at, Diana decides to use her connections to try and get him a new assignment. So she talks to Christiaan Barnard, he of the first human heart transplant procedure, to try and get a job for Khan. Barnard is just one of Diana's connections, but for Khan it is something that he is not prepared for. Khan is a private person, or more specifically wants to keep his privacy and his time with Diana, and not have to share it with the press. Diana attempts to reconcile it, but it is a difficult proposition. Watts' performance in these scenes and throughout the movie as a whole is good, but ultimately does not measure up to her best work.
To be sure, the heart of Diana is sweet and is worth exploring, but there is something about the rest of the body (so to speak) that leaves the viewer feeling a mix between general unease with a dusting of insult. The last moments of Diana seem to infer that if she took a call that Khan was placing to her in Paris that Diana would have lived? And while the film shows a bit of Diana's relationship with Dodi Fayed, it seems to want to say that in that romance, Diana was seeking something similar to what she had with Khan. Her battles with paparazzi, showing what she wanted to leak to the press and what they found out on her own are given some scant attention but when it is shown proves to be confusing.
The core of what Diana tries to tell does have genuinely good intentions, but Hirschbiegel seems to not be able to get away from doing a docudrama in the times between the Khan-Diana romance, and the moments of the former are somewhat painful to endure. It is a shame because this seldom spoken about facet of Diana's life is something that people either do not know about or refuse to acknowledge, and Diana presents little evidence to want to change that.
This is the first time in recent memory that I have seen an Entertainment One Blu-ray release, and the 1.85:1 widescreen transfer (presented with the AVC codec) is not too shabby. The film replicates a lot of lush reds of the various awards and charity carpets Diana has to walk, but the blues and occasional greens of the oceans she sits on a boat with Dodi on look natural as well. Detail in the foreground and background can even be spotted and film grain is also present during viewing and as a whole, the Blu-ray makes for a solid viewing experience.
The DTS HD-MA 5.1 surround track is devoid of complaint, even if generally it does not have a lot to do. Directional effects and channel panning are present during the production, to help further convey a convincing level of immersion to the viewer. But it is a dialogue-driven production, and said dialogue is consistent and well-balanced, requiring little user compensation. There are even fleeting moments where the subwoofer comes in to further echo a dramatic musical cue here and there. It is a nice track for the Blu-ray.
Interviews with Watts, Andrews, Hirschbiegel and various members of the cast and crew is the only extra on the disc, which lacks a ‘Play All' function. The interviews as a whole are somewhat lengthy at 37:30, but many cover the same ground such as thoughts on the material, the director and the real-life aspect of the characters and their relationship. There is coverage on the desire to recreate parts of the set and Diana's wardrobe as well. There is also a 16-page booklet which shows Watts' various costumes as Diana.
If Diana was even the slightest bit myopic and focused strictly on the relationship between Diana, Princess of Wales and Hasnat Khan, the film would be much better as the performances by Watts and Andrews are good and the scenes they share prove to have some charm to them. But the film wants to spend an inordinate amount of time on Diana's life outside of it and it comes out as a pointless pursuit, and it suffers. Technically the disc is good, though the supplements come off as a bit of a throwaway. It is worth checking out if nothing else to learn something about Diana that one may not be aware of and experience something new about her.