Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Elizabeth: The Golden Age


Reviewed by: Tony Sullivan

It is 1587, Queen Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) is at court receiving would-be suitors and finding none worthy. The Catholic faction, headed by Philip II of Spain (Jordi Molla) and the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton), are variously hatching plots to overthrow the Protestant Queen.

Into this melee swaggers authorised pirate Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), armed with something called a potato and some curious brown leaves, but he has the eye of the Queen and her lady-in-wating, Bess Throckmorton (Abbie Cornish). Elizabeth's loyal right-hand-man, Sir Frances Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) sets to work to expose the Catholic plots, utilising interrogation techniques that would undoubtedly be frowned upon by the International Court of Human Rights were it to have existed then.

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Thus is set in motion the fate of the captive Queen and the Spanish desires upon the crown.

Shekhar Kapur is back on board for the ongoing Lizzie saga but his direction here is more pedestrian - gone are the dark and sinister overtones of the first film which is a pity - instead we have Blanchett, showcased in increasingly more dazzling costumes, framing her perfectly for powerful emoting.

Returning writer, Michael Hirst and newcomer William Nicholson - who helped pen Gladiator - have packed enough genuine historical incident and intrigue into the script to please fans of the original and bring something new to the crowded Elizabethan genre.

Blanchett gives the Queen a public steely bark and private angst, proving she is just a terrific actress. Surely Oscar should be paying attention at a time when it seems to me that female characters are once again becoming increasingly marginalised as merely the hero's love interest in the movies.

Clive Owen is a bit more one-dimensional playing Sir Walter Raleigh as though he were James Bond and contrives to steal Sir Frances Drake's thunder during the climactic battle with the Spanish Armada in a bit of historical fudging. In fact, the tussle with the Spanish was a much more protracted affair - the Spanish fleet being pursued almost around the entire coastline with the elements playing as significant a part as any action on the part of the Navy.

Abbie Cornish flutters delicately in her part as the third wheel. Geoffrey Rush has less to do as Walsingham this time around but is always a delightful sourpuss on screen. I had to double check the credits as I couldn't believe I was seeing Rhys Ifans in a totally convincing portrayal as of one of the miscreants, his stock as an actor has just gone way up with me.

Several complaints have been levelled at Craig Armstrong's sweeping orchestral score, but not from this reviewer, this is filmmaking on a grand scale concerning grand themes – the score is appropriate. Armstrong has plagiarised his own score from Plunkett And Macleane, but it is great music. Overall filmmaking of the they-don't-make-'em-like-that-anymore on an operatic scale. When Liz dons her breast plate and rallies the troops at Tilbury, you'll want to put down your paella and rush out and sink a few Spanish ships yourself.

Reviewed on: 14 Oct 2007
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Elizabeth: The Golden Age packshot
The ongoing saga of the Virgin Queen - this time tackling her relationship with Sir Walter Raleigh and Spain.
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Director: Shekhar Kapur

Writer: William Nicholson, Michael Hirst

Starring: Jordi Mollà, Aimee King, Cate Blanchett, John Shrapnel, Geoffrey Rush, Susan Lynch, Elise McCave, Samantha Morton, Abbie Cornish, Penelope McGhie, Rhys Ifans

Year: 2007

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK, France


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