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Elizabeth - The Golden Age - drama/thriller DVD review
ELIZABETH - THE GOLDEN AGE rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Actors: Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush, Abbie Cornish, Jordi Molla
Director: Shekhar Kapur   Studio: Miramax
DVD release: 05 February 2008   Runtime: 114 minutes (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
DVD Features: Subtitles (English, Spanish, French), Audio Tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 - English, French, Spanish), Deleted Scenes, "The Reign Continues: Making Elizabeth: The Golden Age," "Inside Elizabeth's World," "Commanding the Winds: Creating the Armada," "Towers, Courts and Cathedrals," Audio Commentary with director Shekhar Kapur

Following Kate Blanchett's stellar turn in 1998's Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age fails to deliver the energy of the first effort, but the scope and focus of the film is set upon a grander stage: England on the cusp of war with Spain. By 1585, Elizabeth has weathered the early tempest of her rule, sorting through suitors whom she cleverly distracts and ultimately turns away.

A more mature Elizabeth has made a modicum of peace with her romantic dreams, choosing the lonelier road in protecting her monarchy but at a high emotional price. To this end, Blanchett plays an understated Elizabeth, still with an impulsive temperament but more aware of the consequences of her decisions.

Elizabeth isn't immune to the charms of the men who support her cause, newly enamored of Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), recently returned from his adventures in the New World. Yearning to return, he meets resistance as Elizabeth grows more dependent on his advice and friendship, if not affection.

Supporting characters are cast by history, such as the historic beheading of Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton), Elizabeth's cousin and fellow-queen, who plots to be released from Elizabeth's protection and be restored to her rightful throne in Scotland (also to acquire Elizabeth's throne). Menace comes in the form of Philip II of Spain (Jordi Molla), a fanatical ruler who covets England for himself and for his Church.

Philip sends the wrath of God in the form of a Spanish armada severely outnumbering English maritime forces, Elizabeth terrified of losing this pivotal battle. With the counsel of Francis Wallsingham (a luminous Geoffrey Rush), Elizabeth prevails, the armada dashed on the jagged rocks of the coastline: "I have a hurricane in me that will strip Spain bare if you dare to try me."

But the star of this film is the cinematography, scene after scene of brilliant images: Elizabeth bathed in light, still as a statue; the dour Philip II, proponent of the Inquisition, stalking the corridors of his palace, the hymns of monks accompanying his every move.

One of the most visually stunning scenes is of Elizabeth on horseback before the battle with the Spanish, Raleigh riding the waves with the other English soldiers for God and queen. Cast in shining silver on a white horse, Elizabeth is magnificent before her troops though terrified inside, her long red hair unfurled, the Virgin Queen in all her glory. As the seas churn, crucifixes plunge into the depths as do the black-robed men of God; horses leap over the sides of ships, the deep swallowing up the Spanish and all their grand ambitions.

What drama there is beyond the confrontation with the Spanish is minimal. A stunned Elizabeth learns that her favorite handmaiden, Bess, is carrying Raleigh's child, emphasizing the isolation of a monarch who will never know the comforts of marriage. Elizabeth blesses Raleigh's newborn son, cognizant that she will never hold one of her own; all is symbolic. Though Blanchett's amazing talent seems barely tapped, she is perfect in her rendition of this role, a grand figure epitomizing the price of power.
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reviewed by Luan Gaines
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