by Natasha Theobald
Cate Blanchett carries Elizabeth from idealistic young woman to monarch in this tale of religion, politics, and love. We see her transform from a breathy romantic into a woman of great intellect, strength, and power. She loses her innocence and gains the loyalty and admiration of the country she was destined to rule.Elizabeth is the next in line for the throne after her half sister Mary, a Catholic. Catholicism is the religion of England, giving the group and the Pope great power. Their fear is that Elizabeth, a former Protestant, will not adhere to Catholicism if she gains the monarchy. Despite the attempts of the Duke of Norfolk to get Mary to sign for the execution of Elizabeth, she dies before he can succeed. The country is thrown into turmoil as England is challenged at it's borders and from within by foes both distant and unnervingly nearby.
"Political intrigue and lush romance"
Elizabeth counts among her allies the man she loves, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, as well as Sir William Cecil and Sir Francis Walsingham, a man both brutal and brilliant. With their aid, she is able to navigate the first, most uncertain days of her reign. Unfortunately, in the case where her heart leads the way, she may stumble and fall. Luckily, she has the strength and tenacity to pick herself back up and find a new path to her goals.
The movie is filled with opulent settings and rich, beautiful decoration, but it doesn't have the chilly air that many similar films express. The costumes are elegant without seeming overwrought. Most importantly, the cast never disappears in the design but, rather, brings it forward, giving both elements added power.
Cate Blanchett brings Elizabeth to life, making her emotional without seeming weak. She starts the film open to everything the world has to offer, but, through the course of events depicted, she becomes more wary and complex, acting and reacting to forces good and, more often, evil that pepper her path. Christopher Eccleston, as the Duke of Norfolk, her chief opposition, is the villain of the piece from Elizabeth's point of view, but he is more than a mustache-twirling baddie. He is played to the strength of his convictions, however selfish his personal motives may be.
Geoffrey Rush is Sir Francis Walsingham, the queen's best protection against a foe she does not yet understand. We meet him as he foils an assassination attempt and calmly slits his would-be killer's throat. Rush plays the character as charming when necessary, watchful, and knowing. He represents security, the man willing to do what needs to be done behind the scenes to make everything out front look and be right. Joseph Fiennes plays the other man in the queen's life, her lover and friend. The early scenes with them together have a warm, passionate glow. He is dashing and charming, wooing the lady herself, as well as all others around him. When we learn that this may be a flaw of his character, Fiennes is appropriately forlorn and believably desperate to hold onto that which he may have lost.The film is not of the dry, historical persuasion. The politics are played for great entertainment, and the romance is refreshingly sentimental. There are some odd plot elements and the revelations are sometimes a bit uneven with the overall tone, coming fast and furious but lacking some attention that may have been required. However, the cast is exquisite, and the pictures are gorgeous to behold. Overall, this film is a rousing statement about the limits of power and passion.
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originally posted: 11/29/02 03:36:49