ELIZABETH (1998) 

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Cate Blanchett
Geoffrey Rush
Joseph Fiennes
Christopher Eccleston
Sir Richard Attenborough
Fanny Ardent
John Gielgud
Vincent Cassel
Daniel Craig

Shekhar Kapur



Time: 121 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: History/Romance/Drama

Won Academy Award for Best Makeup. Nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, and Dramatic Score.

ELIZABETH is a film brimming with passion, betrayal, intrigue, and of course, political power. It's a lush and interesting tale of a young woman forced by destiny to give up her heart in order to rule her country. It's made all the more engrossing by the fact that the story is true. Elizabeth (Cate Blancehtt), as we first encounter her, is a beautiful, young woman just trying to stay alive in a court that wants her dead. When her older sister Mary, a devout Catholic who's been torturing Protestants since her reign began, dies suddenly of a tumor, the country is forced to queen Elizabeth, a protestant who believes religion should be ruled by a man's heart not his government. All she wants is for the country to be united and for the persecution from both sides to stop.

Born a bastard in the eyes of the Catholic church, the bishops and many of her own court plot against her with murderous intent. Her many advisors urge her to marry as soon as possible to the throne of either Spain or France in order to assure her safety and produce an heir, which would secure her place on the throne. But Elizabeth is her father's daughter and refuses to heed the advise of any man or tie herself down in a loveless marriage. Especially, since her heart has already been won by Sir Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes). The initial months of her reign are fraught with attempts on her life, disasterous political manuveurs and pathetic marriage prospects. She finds the only person she can trust is Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush), whose methods of keeping her in power are dubious at best. After several attempts on her life, she enlists Walsingham to take whatever steps are necessary to not only keep her alive, but to keep her queen. In the end, Elizabeth must choose her country over her heart and declares that she will never marry, devoting herself completely to her people.

"I will have one mistress here and no master!"

Blanchett is amazing as the intelligent, passionate, and strong-willed queen. Her authority and earnestness are written all over her face, yet there's a softness and quick wit that lies just below the surface. Elizabeth was a complicated woman and Blanchett gives a subtle, nuanced performance. This is a performance that demands attention and praise. The supporting cast – especially Rush, Fiennes and Eccleston – play their parts with equal finesse. The only performance I didn't care for was Attenborough's. I just couldn't take him seriously. He'll always be Dr. John Hammond to me. This is a first rate film about a bloody and dangerous time in England's histroy. Elizabeth is not portrayed as a perfect woman, but as one who followed her heart and did what was necessary for the success of her country. During her reign, Elizabeth brought her country from the brink of destruction to the pinnacle of power. If Blanchett's performance captured only a speck of the real woman, than she was an amazing person indeed. Even if you don't like period dramas, this is one you have to see.

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