Elizabeth: The Golden Age *** (out of ****)

Director: Shekhar Kapur
Writers: William Nicholson, Michael Hirst
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen, Samantha Morton, Rhys Infans, Abbie Cornish, Jordi Molla
Rating: PG-13 (violence, light sexuality)
Running Time: 114 min
Release Date: 10/12/07

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a sequel to Shekhar Kapur’s earlier film Elizabeth. As the action continues, a protestant England struggles for its religions self-determination against Catholic dominated Continent striving to return them to the one true faith by whatever means are necessary. First a word of warning, the script takes great liberties with historical accuracy. Even events that are historical sometimes happened well after the 1585-1588 time frame depicted. The significance of certain people is greatly overstated while others are left out. So history buffs just keep repeating: “it’s only a movie!”

Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett), the unmarried queen of England, has a rival for the throne in Mary Queen of Scotts (Samantha Morton) who is under castle arrest. Powerful forces, both at home and abroad, would like to depose Elizabeth. Phillip II, the King of Spain, is leading both efforts. His spies are at work conjuring up an assassination plot while he is building an armada to invade England. Enter Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), a privateer, who shows up a spectacular royal reception with a gift of potatoes and a chest of Spanish gold for the queen. This enrages the Spanish ambassador but brings Raleigh into Elizabeth’s favor.

A basically platonic relationship develops between Raleigh and Elizabeth as she finds him far more interesting that the various monarchs who try to vie for her favor. She is enchanted by his tales of the New World. He has named Virginia for her as she is known as the “virgin queen” as she was never married. Raleigh is eventually knighted to become Sir Walter Raleigh. However, the relationship between Sir Walter and the Elizabeth goes no further than a kiss. His relationship with one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting Bess Throckmorton (Abbie Cornish) goes quit a bit further landing him in the Tower of London.

Meanwhile, Sir Francis Walsingham, England’s master spy chief, has uncovered the plot to assassinate Elizabeth and has evidence that implicates Mary. When a wannabe assassin literally fires a blank, Mary is tried and executed resulting in war with Spain. The giant armada sets sail and the climatic battle that will change history takes place. Elizabeth seeks advice from her astrologer Dr. John Dee (David Threlfall). He can only tell her that one empire will rise and another will fall but not which ones. Dee does point out that some fail in the face of adversity while others take flight and soar. This inspires her to rally her forces and defeat the Spanish.

This film is lush with grand palaces and costumes. Cate Blanchett gives a spectacular performance. Sure this is the romantic version rather than the History Channel’s. But we need some of that from time to time!

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