'Elizabeth' leads 16th-century all-star cast
Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
4 stars out of five
Dir: Shekhar Kapur
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen,
The Golden Age takes up the story in 1585, with
the Protestant queen facing Roman Catholic threats not only in mainland Europe,
with Philip--Spanish Inquisition and all--leading the charge, but also from
supporters of her cousin Mary, whom many Catholics believed to be the rightful
Cate Blanchett reprises her title role with a
performance that conveys the strength and vulnerability of the monarch during
one of the most momentous periods in English history.
Elizabeth is firmly ensconced in her palace,
receiving visitations from a series of suitors, hawkers and all-around
One such visitor is Sir Walter Raleigh, just back
from his trip to the New World, bearing gifts of potatoes and tobacco.
Clive Owen may have been passed over as the new
James Bond, but in the role of the dashing explorer, with his tales of exotic
exploration and derring-do, he gets the opportunity to play a suave, likeable
rogue--dressed in pantaloons rather than a sharp suit.
In contrast to the stuffy, reverential depiction
of the Tudor period in films such as A Man For All Seasons, the contemporary
light thrown on characters such as Raleigh is one of the refreshing aspects of
And it doesn't stop with him. Her Majesty has some
cracking lines, the pick of them being her saucy retort to Raleigh's
announcement that he has named his new colony Virginia in her honor: "When
I marry, will you change the name to Conjugia?"
There are exceptions to this ribaldry though, and
the film is no worse off for it. Samantha Morton's portrayal of Mary is
powerful and emotional, though at times she bears a striking resemblance to
Elsa Lanchester as the monster's mate in Bride of Frankenstein, while Geoffrey
Rush's depiction of Elizabeth's malevolent advisor Walsingham is evil personified.
The film climaxes with the defeat of the Spanish
Armada by an English fleet of ships led by Drake. Blanchett's speech to the
troops at Tilbury recreates one of Elizabeth's finest moments, and her
rendition ranks with Kenneth Branagh's St. Crispin's Day speech in Henry V.
While some awareness of the historical background
to the movie will enhance your enjoyment of the film, events unfold in such a
way that it is not essential to have a vast knowledge of English history to
appreciate the movie.
For those who can't read Japanese subtitles,
though, some Spanish-language ability will be needed for the scenes in Spain
as, irritatingly for such a high-profile movie, there are no English subtitles
provided. Fortunately, it is possible to keep track of the plot without an
understanding of those scenes.
In Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Kapur succeeds in
relating the story of one of England's most famous historical figures with wit
and compassion. Blanchett's mixture of drama and humor in the title role is sure
to enhance her reputation as one of the most versatile actors around these
At the time of Elizabeth the producers talked
about a trilogy of movies. If they can get Blanchett to complete the set
perhaps, audiences will finally get to see the Bard of Avon.
The movie, in English and Spanish, opens Saturday.
(Feb. 15, 2008)