Elizabeth - Cate Blanchett (Oscar & Lucinda)
Falsingham - Geoffrey Rush (Shine, Les Miserables)
Norfolk - Christopher Eccleston (Jude, Shallow Grave)
Robert Dudley - Joseph Fiennes (Stealing Beauty)
Director: Shekhar Kapur
Previews: The Hi-Lo Country, 8mm, Instinct, Arlington Road
History has many lessons to teach us, and this movie should be required viewing, for college history classes, and, in my opinion, anyone in a position of power. Even someone who strives or desires to be in one. Queen Elizabeth was one of the most noted and influential figures in World History..let alone in Britain, where she has achieved martyrdom status. (I'm guessing anyone who has an era named after them must be looked upon in high regard.) It was a status that she had partially chosen, based upon her strength of faith, and partially been forced into, based upon the actions of those around her.
The movie picks up as Elizabeth ascends to the throne. She is a strong-willed, independent, yet fragile young woman, who has this power and authority forced upon her. Her uneasiness shows in early scenes involving affairs with France and Spain, who were chomping at the bit to gain control over England. The country was supposedly weakened after Mary's death, and was in military and financial ruins. Another (of many) problems facing the young Queen, was the serious matter of religion, and the division of parties and subjects over this fact. The movie deals with the battles, crosses, double crosses, and deals made, to bring a quick end to Elizabeths reign. She eventually gained power, inherited from daddy (Henry VII, I am, I am) from her inner beliefs, and overcame to lead England into prosperity.
The supporting cast here is first class all-around, led by Eccleston, powerfully vengeful and evil, as the leader of her detractors. Also shining is Rush, as the calmly downkey, loyal, yet wicked advisor. stays by her side, throughout, which proves beneficial later, when Elizabeth gains her full confidence, power and independence. Fiennes, Ralphs little brother, is in an innocent lovestruck gaze throughout, as Elizabeths true love, whose agendas, and loyalties lie elsewhere. This performance lessens in comparison to Eccleston and Rush, but is still effective, and emotional. A deliciously evil cameo from Sir John Gielgud as the Pope, is the icing on this wonderful cake. The true gem here is the performance of relative newcomer Blanchett (her first lead role). She is a scene-stealer, with innocent, yet determined eyes, velvety harsh voice and a powerful presence, and incredible emotional range. She is the glue that bonds this madness together, and shows just about every emotion in the book, from happiness, to love, to despair, to vengeance. She makes this story a joy to watch, because it seems as if we are actually watching these events unfold, instead of watching characters telling a story. The look and vision of this film are amazing. Kudos to the cinematographer, for making an historical movie, look so modern. Using the lighting, and angles to create the angelic impression of the Queen, and a wonderfully modern outtakes style sequence, as the Queen practices a speech. Altogether, it is a truly innovative and unique use of the camera to lighten up a potentially staid story. The costumes are stunningly accurate as well, capturing the mood of the period, without looking as if they were gathered from the backlot of The Three Musketeers..
I've often said that the reason some students lose interest in history, is that they think that since it happened so long ago, or far away, that it's boring, and involves a lot of people talking in "Thou" and "Art" etc. However, if you really read into the details, and morality of some of history's greatest events, stripping away the time frame, and leaving only the people, and moral issues, they can be more frightening, and applicable, or similar, to some of the things that are found as entertaining in modern times. Take this movie, a person is forced to do something against their will. Around them are "friends" who may or may not believe the same, and want this position. They will resort to murder, adultery, manipulation, chicanery, deals in dark shadows, etc. Sounds entertaining doesn't it. Well, you can plug that plot into any movie nowadays, and with the right director, and actors, it could make millions. Evil, deception, and such, have been around long before we were even memories. What the director has achieved here, is an entertaining, intelligent, and from what I can tell, accurate retelling, of one of the darkest sides of history, and how it turned into one of most influential events in history. Oscar voters, pay particular attention to this movie, please, for costumes, cinematography, but most of all, for Blanchetts performance. See this one, as soon as you can find it, and for an added enjoyment, brush up on this story a bit, you'll get even more out of it . ($$$$1/2)
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