Dir: Shekhar Kapur, 1998. Starring: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Christopher Eccleston. Drama.

Elizabeth is the story of England’s most notorious Queen as she transforms from a free-spirited young woman into an ice-cold leader, battling opposition from enemy states and the Catholic Church.

The tightly plotted screenplay by Michael Hirst (Uncovered) is one of the most dynamic period dramas I have come across. It covers historical truth, while still maintaining a high level of dramatic scenarios and relationships.

Shekhar Kapur (The Four Feathers) directs the film with such mastery and precision. He maintains a great tone, bringing out wonderful performances from his very talented cast of actors.

Remi Adefarasin's cinematography is lush, filled with well-staged dramatic lighting and a beautiful color palette. Adefarasin makes the most out of top-notch period production design by John Myhre.

The score by David Hirschfelder is succinct, building constant momentum and tension that explodes into intrigue and bloodshed.

The editing by Jill Bilcock is taut, well paced and never lets up—giving a nice rising momentum to the unfolding treason and power plays.

Oscar winning actress Cate Blanchett (The Aviator) stars in the title role. She carries the innocence of a young woman’s love as equally as the icy strength of a “Virgin Queen.”

Oscar winning actor (and fellow Aussie) Geoffrey Rush (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers) plays the Queen’s confidant and sometime assassin, “Sir Francis Walsingham.” Rush gives such intimidating, yet quiet weight to this man who kills without batting an eyelash. Rush is one of modern cinema’s most talented actors and this is among his finest work.

Joseph Fiennes (Enemy at the Gates) plays “Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester”— married nobleman who, for better or worse, cannot let go of the love he developed for Elizabeth as a youth, even when it costs him dearly and puts all of England at risk. Fiennes plays Dudley with such boyish charm, crumbling into a walking joke in the royal court.

Christopher Eccleston (28 Days Later) is fiendishly effective as the “Duke of Norfolk”—a soldier with absolute power on his conscience. Eccleston is wonderfully devious—a villain with cunning smarts and smarmy through and through.

French actor Vincent Cassel (Eastern Promises) gives a great comic turn as “Duc d’Anjou”—nephew of Mary of Guise and all around sleazebag. He courts Elizabeth for her hand in political marriage, exposing his many unflattering perversions in the process.

Look for solid supporting performances from British stage/screen legends Sir John Gielgud and Sir Richard Attenborough, as the Pope of Rome and the Queen’s oldest confidant, respectively.

An interesting side note to close out with—both Geoffrey Rush and Joseph Fiennes starred in 1998’s other Elizabethan flick, Shakespeare in Love. The romantic comedy would edge out this straight drama for Best Picture and Best Actress. Although Elizabeth has much more lasting power of the two and should have taken the top prize.


Elizabeth won an Oscar for Best Makeup and was nominated for six additional Oscars, including: Best Actress (Cate Blanchett), Best Picture, Best Art Direction/Best Set Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Music.

Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Jul 13, 2009 1:35pm
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