About Elizabeth (1998)
Academy Award-winners Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush and Richard Attenborough lead a distinguished cast in Elizabeth – the critically acclaimed epic of the Queen’s turbulent and treacherous rise to power! Before the Golden Age, Elizabeth was a passionate and naïve girl who came to reign over a land divided by bloody turmoil. Amidst palace intrigues and attempted assassinations, the young Queen is forced to become a cunning strategist while weighing the counsel of her mysterious advisors, thwarting her devious rivals, and denying her own desires for the good of her country. Relive the majesty and drama of one of history’s greatest monarchs in this stunning production that was honored with 7 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture!
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Christopher Eccleston, John Gielgud
Directed by: Shekhar Kapur
Runtime: 124 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios
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Shekhar Kapur’s biographical piece of one of England’s greatest monarchs focuses on the early years of Elizabeth I’s reign. Having succeeded her Catholic sister, Mary (Kathy Burke), Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) faces a man’s world at court, not only having to force herself forward as the ruler of England but also to avoid attempts on her life, especially from devout Catholics who do not take kindly to having a Protestant on the throne. Elizabeth cannot survive alone but who can she turn to and trust to secure her position?
The film begins with Elizabeth being imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1554. It’s not obvious that four years then elapse before her sister, Mary, dies suddenly following a phantom pregnancy. Elizabeth becomes the new queen and enters court where factions quickly grow and the main threat to her throne is from the Duke of Norfolk (Christopher Eccleston). Elizabeth is somewhat distracted with her romance with Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes) but she has friends watching out for her, most importantly the cunning spy master Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) who has returned to England from exile and slowly rises to favour as Elizabeth becomes more isolated. Elizabeth is in danger with the Pope wanting her dead, while Mary of Guise (Fanny Ardant) has sent French troops to Scotland, putting further pressure on the new queen. At the beginning, Elizabeth is sweet, innocent and romantic, by the end she is strong, ruthless and powerful. How she gets there is fascinating.
boasts a great cast with Blanchett putting in an accomplished performance as the queen while Rush is equally good as Walsingham. Eccleston leads a great supporting cast amidst the conspiracies and intrigues at court. Even Eric Cantona pops up at one point, minus a football, and he isn’t bad to be honest. Having studied the Tudors at school, college and university I was able to pick up on some historical inaccuracies, not least Elizabeth’s relationship with Dudley. Though the queen did have her favourites at court there was no evidence she slept with any of them. Elizabeth’s relationship with William Cecil (Richard Attenborough) is one that turns very sour in this film but in reality Cecil was arguably Elizabeth’s most trusted advisor, one she is said to have spoon fed soup to when he was seriously ill, that’s how important he was. There are many other inaccuracies which don’t stop this being a good film, but I do find it puzzling why history needs to be changed on the big screen when the true stories befit classic Hollywood storylines already.
Elizabeth is an accomplished survey of the Virgin Queen’s early reign with the story carried confidently by a fine array of acting talent. Despite some historical inaccuracies the film has some good moments though for me it falls narrowly short of being a 4 star feature. It’s a safe 3.5 but as I have to round down it will have to be 3 stars.
(Film source: reviewer’s own copy)