Helen Mirren is one of this country's greatest actresses of all time and she is back on the big screen this week with new film Eye in the Sky, which sees her team up with filmmaker Gavin Hood for the first time.

Helen Mirren in Eye in the Sky

Helen Mirren in Eye in the Sky

The movie sees Mirren take on the role of Colonel Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya. It is great to see a role like this cast as a woman and it is unlike anything that we have seen Mirren tackle before.

To celebrate the release of Eye in the Sky, which will explore the implications and moral questions raised by modern day drone warfare, we take a look at some of her best movies and roles of the last fifteen years.

- The Queen (2006)

When we look back at Helen Mirren's best roles of the last fifteen years her crowning moment - forgive the pun - came when she took on the role of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen.

It was back in 2006 when she took on this role and Stephen Frears took up the director's chair. The movie followed the Queen as she comes under fire for her reaction to the death of Princess Diana - it was a week that was to rock the monarchy.

Mirren delivered a towering performance as Queen Elizabeth II, in a movie that gives us an interesting peek behind the curtain of recent historic events.

This really was a compelling drama that humanised the title character like never before. Not only did we see her as this country's monarch, but this film also painted her as a dedicated grandmother who was determined to protect William and Harry at such a difficult and tragic time.

The sudden death of Diana caused an outpouring of grief from the general public that no one - including the Queen herself - was expecting or was ready for. Elizabeth II also struggled with the turn in public opinion against her. Mirren captures a woman in turmoil and disbelief so wonderfully.

The Queen was met with critical acclaim upon release and Mirren went on to scoop the Best Actress Oscar for her wonderful central performance - which really is one of the best in her career. Mirren also went on to win a Bafta, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for her work.

The Queen

- The Debt (2011)

The Debt was one of the most impressive drama/thrillers to hit the big screen back in 2011 as John Madden returned to the director's chair.

In 1965, three Mossad agents cross into East Berlin to apprehend a notorious Nazi war criminal... but things do not go to plan. Thirty years later, the secrets the agents share come back to haunt them.

Jessica Chastain and Mirren take on the younger and older version of the Rachel Singer alongside Tom Wilkinson, Ciaran Hinds, Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, Sam Worthington, and Jesper Christensen.

From start to finish, The Debut is an action-packed, tense, and well-crafted movie that is as tense as it is complex. I love that is moves between different time periods and shows how a lie impacted on the lives of three people who told it.

While everyone delivers a wonderful performance, it is Chastain and Mirren who really shine as Rachel. Chastain captures the strength and vulnerability of this young woman in the field with a very challenging task of capturing Vogel.

Both actresses beautifully show this character's struggle with the truth and the impact of this lie looms over the whole film. The Debt is more of an action role for Mirren as Rachel is called upon to finish the mission that she David and Stephan failed back in 1965.

The Debt is a great balance between action and character driven drama and is a film that, for me, did not disappoint.

The Debt

- Monsters University (2013)

Mirren has one of the most recognisable voices and she lent that voice to Monsters University back in 2013.

Monsters University was a sequel to the fantastic Monsters, Inc. but was set prior to events in the first film. The movie was set during Mike and Sulley's university days and Mirren was introduced as Dean Hardscrabble for the first time.

This was the fourteenth film from Pixar and was the first since the success of Brave a year before. Monsters University was only the second feature film of Dan Scanlon's directing career and his first time at the helm of an animation film.

For me, Monsters University was one of the best animation movies of the year and another gem of a film from Pixar. I was such a huge fan of the first movie that I was a little nervous when it was announced that a sequel was going ahead... there was no need to worry as this is a wonderful film from start to finish.

It is a very brave thing to go backwards and introduce us to new versions of characters that we have already fallen in love with - a risk that really did pay off. I loved that they took that leap of faith.

Monsters University is about dreams and ambitions, and how you may not always get what you had hoped for. It is also about the power of friendship - we see the seed of the Mike & Sulley partnership well and truly being sown.

Of course, the performances of Billy Crystal and John Goodman take centre stage as Mike and Sulley, but the casting of Mirren is a stroke of genius. There is a power to her performance as Dean Hardscrabble, that strikes fear into the heart of her students. However, there is a passion from this character and, under her terrifying exterior, she only wants the best for her students. Mirren really does deliver a fantastic and show stopping performance.

The movie was a huge commercial smash and went on to gross over $743 million at the global box office. It was the seventh highest grossing film of the year and the third highest grossing animation film, behind Frozen and Despicable Me 2.

Monsters University

- Calendar Girls (2003)

It was back in 2003 when Calendar Girls hit the big screen and it remains one of the best British comedy films of recent years. The movie saw Nigel Cole in the director's chair and the film was based on a real group of Yorkshire women who posed for an alternative nude WI calendar to raise money for Leukaemia Research.

The movie saw Mirren and Julie Walters take on the central roles of best friends Chris Harper and Annie Clarke. When Annie's husband dies of leukaemia, it is Chris who comes up with the idea of the calendar. The duo is joined on the cast list by Linda Bassett, Annette Crosbie, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilson, Philip Glenister, and Ciaran Hinds.

From start to finish, Calendar Girls is a funny and charming movie that pays wonderful homage to the women who wanted to something in memory of a friend that they had lost.

In lesser hands, this movie would not have been an effective, but with Mirren and Walters leading the way, it is a movie that is packed with heart and emotion... and a lot of fun along the way.

This is a movie about love, loss, and coping with grief - something that we can all relate to as audience members. But it is also a film about friendship about rallying around and together to help someone through a tough time.

I think Calendar Girls is a movie that really is a lot of fun and is driven forward by a cast that brings real weight to the story - Mirren and Walters particularly shine as their friendship is tested when the calendar is more successful than they ever could have imagined.

The movie was a big commercial success. Mirren picked up a Golden Globe nomination for her performance while she and Walters were both nominated at the Satellite Awards.

Calendar Girls

- Gosford Park (2002)

Before Julian Fellowes created Downton Abbey, he wrote the screenplay for period murder/mystery Gosford Park. which hit the big screen in the UK back in 2002.

Set in 1932 in a country house, the lives of upstairs guests and downstairs servants are explored as they investigate a murder involving one of them.

Eileen Atkins and Helen Mirren play servant sisters Mrs. Croft and Mrs. Wilson - two women at loggerheads and hiding a secret. They are joined on the cast list by Charles Dance, Stephen Fry, Richard E. Grant, Michael Gambon, Kelly Macdonald, Maggie Smith, Clive Owen, and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Gosford Park is a great whodunit and is a movie that is full of unexpected twists, turns, and intriguing characters. Fellowes has penned a fresh, intelligent, witty, and compelling screenplay that will keep you guessing right until the last moment.

The film is also packed with a series of interesting subplots as we go into the lives of those who live above and below stairs. In fact, it is the servants who are the most interesting characters and offer up the more complex backstories.

While all of the cast are fantastic, Mirren and Atkins really do shine. These two characters are the perfect example of the separation between the classes at the time and the difficulties those 'below stairs' faced. Mrs. Croft and Mrs. Wilson have an emotional end to their tale and Atkins and Mirren really are on top form.

Gosford Park went on to be both a critical and commercial hit. The film went on to be nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture. Fellowes would win for Best Screenplay.

Gosford Park

- Trumbo (2015)

Another terrific performance came earlier this year as Mirren starred alongside Bryan Cranston in biopic film Trumbo. The movie looked at the career of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and how his political beliefs brought it all crashing down

Mirren took on the role of Hedda Hopper, an actress, and gossip columnists who, during the McCarthy era, named suspected Communists.

Trumbo has been one of the best biopic movies of 2016 so far, with both Cranston and Mirren delivering wonderful performances.

Trumbo is a hugely compelling and intelligent movie that really captures the time and the hostilities and suspicions people had back in a rather dark time in American politics.

Directed by Jay Roach, Trumbo is a wonderful mix of Hollywood, politics as well as Trumbo's home and family life - which was put to the test during these troubling times for the screenwriter.

Trumbo played well on the festival circuit at the end of last year and went on to enjoy critical success upon its release.

While Mirren was one of the British stars who was sadly overlooked when the Oscar nominations were announced earlier this year, she did pick up a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nod for her great performance.


Eye in the Sky is released 15th April.

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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