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|Elizabeth: The Golden Age|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Shekhar Kapur|
scr William Nicholson, Michael Hirst
with Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush, Abbie Cornish, Samantha Morton, Rhys Ifans, Tom Hollander, Jordi Molla, Eddie Redmayne, Adam Godley, Jeremy Barker, Hayley Burroughs
release US 12.Oct.07, UK 2.Nov.07
07/UK Universal 1h54
Corridors of power: Blanchett and Owen
Filmed with typical lushness by director Kapur, this sequel to the 1998 biopic continues the stylish approach to history, emphasising the costumes, hair and sets over historical accuracy and depth of character. But it's still hugely entertaining.
In 1585, Queen Elizabeth (Blanchett) finds her greatest threat comes from Spain's Catholic church, which is consolidating its grip on both Europe and the New World, and wants the infidel Protestant monarch replaced by the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots (Morton). But Elizabeth isn't going without a fight, even as Spain's King Philip (Molla) has deployed a spy (Ifans) and is building a great armada. During this time she also meets the free-thinking explorer Walter Raleigh (Owen), who challenges her on several levels and takes a shine to her handmaid (Cornish).
The religious-political intrigue makes this film timely and resonant, even if the script seems to only play around with these hot-potato issues, rather than really deal with them. Philip is essentially just a religious fanatic engaging in terrorism while Elizabeth does "God's work". As the romantic tension between her and Raleigh strains her resolve to serve her subjects without distraction, it also reminds her that she's a woman with needs! This gives the film an emotional undercurrent, and gives the cast some meaty scenes to chew on.
Blanchett is a force of nature--imperious and bellowing, while allowing glimpses of self-doubt and mischief to lurk in her eyes. She holds our attention completely, and is nicely balanced by Owen, in a not-too-stretching role, and Rush, slightly sidelined this time as the manipulative Walsingham. Cornish and Morton both give terrific supporting turns, while we want more of the under-defined characters played by Ifans and Hollander (as Mary's jailor).
Against all this, we have the real star of the film: Kapur's love of elaborate art direction. Scenes drift from shadows into light, with exquisite curtains, stiff lace collars, mountains of hair and carefully brushed metal, wood and stone. Blanchett and Owen manage to break through this with their charismatic performances, adding some real intensity to the whispered, over-serious dialog. So it's a shame that, like the first film, the real motivations get lost in the shuffle.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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