Monday, March 24, 2008

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

"Pound for pound, minute for minute, Elizabeth: The Golden Age could possibly contain more sustained church-bashing than any other film I can think of. How is it possible that this orgy of anti-Catholicism has been all but ignored by most critics?" Steven D. Greydanus, National Catholic Register

You know what they say... If something's controversial, chances are it's good.

And although Elizabeth: The Golden Age didn't register as anti-Catholic propaganda with me, it did prove to be a hugely entertaining historical adventure about one of the most thrilling chapters in English history.

The Golden Age

Made almost a decade after the academy award-winning Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a sumptuous sequel that's starkly different to it's predecessor.

The first film was introspective and largely character driven, chronicling the early reign of Queen Elizabeth. In contrast, The Golden Age takes place further into Elizabeth's reign - when it was not just conspiracy her nation faced - but outright invasion.

The plot of The Golden Age is suitably more epic, climaxing in an sumptuously rendered battle between the Spanish Armada and the embattled English fleet.

Elizabeth the Queen

The climax of the first film saw Elizabeth hack off her flaming red hair and become reborn as the 'Virgin Queen' of England. It's this cold, aloof and desperately lonely woman that we follow throughout The Golden Age - played with precision by a sublime Cate Blanchett.

Her portrayal of Elizabeth illustrates the conflict between Elizabeth the woman - intensely vain and vulnerable, living vicariously through her trusted lady-in-waiting Elizabeth Throckmorton - and Elizabeth the Queen - a magnificent, decisive and powerful leader who was the equal of any man.

Blanchett's portrayal is pitch perfect. Her Elizabeth is both sympathetic and terrifying - one minute alarmed at her crows-feet and fading beauty - the next leading a charge across the white cliffs of Dover to give her troops a stirring speech worthy of Churchill himself.

The rest of the cast is solid as well, with Geoffrey Rush reprising his role as Elizabeth's confident Sir Francis Walsingham - while Clive Owen is a slightly cocky Sir Walter Raleigh, winning Elizabeth's heart while simultaneously bedding her favourite lady-in-waiting (the delicious Abbie Cornish.)

The cinematography is sumptuous. Glorious English landmarks (such as Winchester Cathedral) stand in for seemingly mundane locations (like Elizabeth's bath-chamber and bedroom.) The costumes are magnificent, too - even more so than the first film. Careful attention to detail brings the Elizabethan era vividly to life on-screen.

The violent climax is thrilling - rendered almost like a painting-come-to-life through powerful CGI effects.

All in all, Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a real treat of a film. As with most historical dramas, the actual facts don't always match up with what happens in the script, but what historical liberties have been taken seem to have contributed to the overall look and feel of the film, rather than detracted from it.

As the credits rolled, I found myself thinking that I'd enjoyed The Golden Age far more than the original Elizabeth. It's rare than a sequel manages to prove better than the first film, but The Golden Age managed to do so by building on the first movie's solid foundations.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is available on DVD now.


Anonymous said...

Roland!! I have not been able to get on your blog as of late and this has made me quite sad and frustrated! but i found my way back, baby!!

Hope you had a great Easter!! :)

Bella said...

I have not seen this movie, but it does sound interesting!

Cool blog!

And thanks for stopping by mine!

=) Bella

Kirsty said...

Do you do this for a living. What a great review!
I haven't watched this yet but I will do now.:)