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Elizabeth (1998) – Movie Review

Elizabeth poster

Directed by Shekhar Kapur
Written by Michael Hirst
Starring Cate Blanchett, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Christopher Eccleston, Richard Attenborough

My Advice: Don’t Miss It.

Henry VIII is dead and Queen Mary Tudor (Kathy Burke) isn’t feeling too good herself, which leaves young Elizabeth (Blanchett) to take the throne. There are some complications, not limited to the fact that she is Protestant in a land of Catholic rule and also the fact that she loves Robert Dudley (Fiennes) despite many attempts by her head advisor, Sir William (Attenborough), to get her to marry someone else and get on with the business of producing an heir.

First and foremost, a big round of applause to not only Kapur for orchestrating this enjoyable historical jaunt, but Remi Adefarasin for the evocative cinematography, Alexandra Byrne for the gorgeous costume design, and John Myhre for the beautiful production design. They all provided the environment for the movie to work in, and damn if they didn’t do jobs worthy of multiple Oscar nods. Voluminous rooms, strategic use of curtains and lighting, and absolutely stunning garb work with the unique camera angles to bring England of the day to light.

Now, the performances, all of which were outstanding. You have Ralph’s brother as the love interest, and his young cocky temperament serves the role well. Eccleston plays the scheming Duke of Norfolk. His performance is strong and should not be overlooked. Richard Attenborough is in fine form as the worrisome advisor and it’s always good to see John Gielgud, even in a brief cameo as The Pope. However, my highest praise I save for not only Geoffrey Rush, an acting god who is in fine conniving form as Sir Francis but also the Queen herself, Cate Blanchett. She plays political naivete without general weakness and has her Elizabeth rise to the occasion when needed. During the final stately march to her throne, she is stunning in its sheer unspoken power. This is a fine piece of filmmaking that gives you history but still contains the right elements of sex, intrigue and suspense to keep it from being starched. Be sure to catch it.

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