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Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) is the target of Spanish King Philip's (Jordi Molla) crusade to unite all of Europe under the Catholic Papacy - and in the process crown his little daughter the new Queen of England. As if that weren't enough, another claimant to the throne, Mary Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton), plots Elizabeth's overthrow from her castle prison. When Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) returns from his adventure in the New World, the Virgin Queen is fascinated by him, as is her lady in waiting, Bess (Abbie Cornish). Elizabeth's trusted chief advisor, Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) continues to manipulate affairs of court, and intercepts Mary's secret plans. Mary's execution provides a trigger Philip of Spain has waited for to unleash his massive armada against Elizabeth's England.

Review by Louise Keller:
There's drama in the court and on the high seas in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, a potent historical costume saga with Cate Blanchett in sparkling form, reprising her defining role. 'I find the impossible far more interesting,' Blanchett's Queen states at the beginning of the film, in which conflict is not limited to the power struggle between Spain and England, but to the inner conflict that overwhelms the powerful monarch. Elizabeth is filled with self-doubt, yearnings and jealousy as she faces betrayal, deception and frustrations in love. Set under Gothic arches with Tudor collars, fitted bodices, elaborate wigs and costumes, the film is sumptuous to look at and Clive Owen spins his charismatic charm as the enigmatic Sir Walter Raleigh.

'Why be afraid of tomorrow when we have now to live,' Owen's Walter Raleigh tells Elizabeth. Theirs is a tantalising relationship beginning when Raleigh dramatically flings his cloak on the cobbled ground before Elizabeth to shield her feet from a puddle. With pale matt make up, Blanchett is a study of expressions as Raleigh dazzles her with his tales of adventure in the New World. There's an immediate attraction and the connection between Owen and Blanchett is tangible, yet suitably restrained. Abbie Cornish impresses in the plum role as Bess, Elizabeth's closest lady-in-waiting confidante, who is free to have what the Queen cannot. As she watches Bess and Raleigh making love through the crevices of a dividing screen, Elizabeth is a portrait of utter loneliness; she lets her clothes fall to the floor in a helpless show of vulnerability. Samantha Morton is formidable as the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots, who poses a continuing threat to Elizabeth's throne and Geoffrey Rush is solid gold as the Queen's ever-vigilant, world weary advisor.

The story may be set in the 16th Century, but its themes of political unrest, struggle for power and personal satisfaction are timeless and universal. It may have been a gamble for director Shekhar Kapur to pick up the threads of his acclaimed film Elizabeth from nine years earlier but the result is overtly satisfying as the many subtleties of the mature Queen's emotional journey are realized. It's a rousing and engaging tale filled with drama and conflict and the image of Blanchett's Elizabeth is indelible.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With this sequel to his historical drama, Elizabeth, Shekhar Kapur demonstrates the best of reasons to make films about the past. The insights and overviews that we are given make the past relevant to the present, and our understanding of the human condition deeper. Kapur's vision is a time capsule of England's most important victory over Spain - in a battle of religious fundamentalism which also carried the potential for religious tyranny as perpetrated by the Spanish Inquisition. All this and much more is made clear in this paraphrasing of the history by the writers.

But the bonus is that characters and relationship fill in the outline of history with flesh and blood - indeed, quite a lot of blood (although the film is not especially gory). Cate Blanchett raises the bar on her previous performance as Elizabeth in a mature and complex characterisation that involves and moves us. She seems to be an actor of boundless abilities. Both Geoffrey Rush and Abbie Cornish deliver exceptional performances in roles that are the Queen's closest allies. Clive Owen's Walter Raleigh is a dashing character, and his is perhaps the most modern interpretation of a figure of the 16th century, but he makes it work by sheer sincerity.

Samantha Morton is moving and memorable as Mary Stuart, and a strong supporting cast completes the casting success. But credit, too, to Jill Bilcock's superb editing, and Guy Dyas' sumptuous production design. Remi Adefarasin's cinematography is both robust and sensitive, and he is up to the many challenges of shooting interior scenes lit by candles alone. Exteriors are often grand and the digital enhancements are (almost entirely) seamless.

The film's tone as 'opera without singing' is well exemplified in a triumphal moment when Elizabeth is seen to revel in her victory over the Spanish as if in some heavenly fantasy. This is the immortal, divine 'angel' with whom Kapur is fascinated within the Elizabeth of history, the myth that history becomes. The film offers a great experience by engaging our emotions as well as out minds, refreshing bits of history and stamping its mood on our cinematic memory.

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(UK/France, 2007)

CAST: Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush, Abbie Cornish, Samantha Morton, Tom Hollander, Jordi Molla, Adam Godley, Rhys Ifans, Eddie Redmayne

PRODUCER: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jonathan Cavendish

DIRECTOR: Shekhar Kapur

SCRIPT: Michael Hirst, William Nicholson


EDITOR: Jill Bilcock

MUSIC: A. R. Rahman, Craig Armstrong


RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 15, 2007

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