Sunday, October 14, 2007

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Director: Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen, The Four Feathers)
Writers: William Nicholson, Michael Hirst
Producers: Tim Bevan, Jonathan Cavendish, Eric Fellner
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush, Samantha Morton, Rhys Ifans
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 114 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

reviewed by Andrew James
     Having never seen the precursor to this film, Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen, I'm unable to compare the two films; both written and directed by Kapur and both starring the great Cate Blanchett in the title role. I can only review this movie as it stands; and I can tell you, I was enthralled.

      Elizabeth: The Golden Age takes place during Elizabeth's prime years of rule. Her advisors wish her to find a husband and produce offspring, while she is far more non chalant about the idea, until a handsome young pirate (Owen) shows at The Queen's door and she is quite taken with him. Meanwhile, Spain is conspiring against England and indeed, The Queen herself. It is obvious there is a traitor in The Queen's midst, but it's hard to tell where and who it might be. The rest of the story revolves around romance, Elizabeth's personal feelings and the growing threat of an assassination attempt and an all out invasion of England.

      Getting the obvious out of the way, Cate Blanchett is nothing short of magnificent in her recurring role as The Queen. In my eyes, she does no wrong in any project she's involved with and here is no exception. Oscar nods are practically guaranteed with any picture Blanchett is involved and in this case, I believe the Oscar nom will go to Blanchett herself. The only thing that might be better will be her portrayal of Bob Dylan in this fall's upcoming film, I'm Not There.

      Next to Blanchett is the underused Geoffrey Rush. His performance here was wonderful and unfortunately just not there enough (much like his presence in the recent Munich). I also admit to having sort of a man crush on Clive Owen. There is no doubt anymore that this guy is an A-quality actor. He can do it all: from drama to comedy to action and even campy, goof-off material. His charisma and charm in Elizabeth is unarguable. In one particular scene in which Owen relates a harrowing journey to The Queen, he is interrupted and the audience nearly groans with annoyance (as does Elizabeth). She begs him to continue and as he does, the audience and The Queen together feel the relief of getting to hear the rest of this pirate tale and the man telling it.

      So as I said, these were the obvious positive traits. Beyond the acting is the absolutely stunning and gorgeous cinematography. Each sequence is geniously assembled with just the right lighting and set decoration to help give a fresh breath into each actor's character. At times it can feel a little bit too beautiful and therefore ham handed or distracting; but for the most part, the film is just a beautiful moving painting. Couple this with the tremendous work done within the costume and hair departments and you've got nothing short of what appears to be magnificence on screen. Two more Oscar nominations forthcoming for these categories as well. Wait, is there a category for hair style? Well I guess wigs count as part of the costume design don't they.

      The movie isn't completely without flaw. The plotline can get a little wrinkly at times and an over abundant amount of characters sometimes get the best of the audience' wits. This is unfortunate as the plotline should be fairly simple (and is fairly simple), yet the film makers somehow manage to muck it up a bit. Still, it isn't too hard to stay on track and get the gist of what is happening.

      The other minor flaw in my opinion is the "epic" battle sequence. It isn't all that exciting or even lengthy. It's more of what a painter might see when thinking about what a ship battle might look like. In my opinion, this was the weakest part of the movie. The entire film sets a mood. A mood in which we are swept up in. So, although we know we are being built up to something big and ferocious, it ends up feeling like the finale to Pirates of the Caribbean or something; completely seperate and detracting from the emotion of the rest of the picture.

      I've said many times that it takes many different aspects and people all working together to make a great film. When one of those parts doesn't quite fit right, the film may fall a little short. However, often times certain aspects of a film are able to take the attributes that don't work so well and carry them on their back. So is the case with Elizabeth. If caught in the right mood, the beautiful cinematography and flawless acting talents help the stumbling storyline go above and beyond expectations. The director takes enough time with these two extremely strong attributes and they outweigh any other weaknesses the film might have. maybe not for everyone, but I loved it. Remember The New World?

Click "play" to see the trailer:

IMDb profile - full cast and crew
Official Site
Flixster Profile for Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Posted by Andrew James in

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