A fairy tale about the "Faerie Queene"? I love it!9/10
Another Elizabeth I film? Why not? The Elizabethan Era's, indeed, a fascinating periods in English history - an era when England was relatively well off compared to other nations even if its wealth was unevenly distributed!
Director Kapur interestingly puts dramatic and chilling appeal and emphasis on Elizabeth's Golden Age to reveal her personality and struggles to keep her throne and save her country from falling into the hands of conspirators and invaders. Does he give his audience any insight into the Golden Age when English Literature, poetry, music, theater, architecture, scientific and technological advancement, and exploration expansion flourished? Nope. His film does offer some interesting hints that women did enjoy the freedom of movement (ah ha, even a queen's closest and dearest lady-in-waiting could play cuckold to her mistress' favorite man!) and that competing interests and ambitions of colonial powers made it easy for ambitious sailors to legalize acts of piracy! Serious crimes could well resort in severe tortures. Director Kapur does stress that she was the "peoples" queen!
The story continues from where Cate Blanchett's young, flighty, and reckless Elizabeth made her finale masculine-like entrance in the prequel, "Elizabeth", as the Virgin Queen with her face heavily laced with the 'white-as-milke' make-up - an image of a queen ready to lead her citizens.
At a deliberate slow pacing, the introduction with its scenes, characters and their dialog prepare the audience to receive Elizabeth as the Queen with a more focused, more rigid personality, in charge of hers and her country's destinies. Yep, a woman with ready suitors, but offering a sense that she is wedded to her Empire! She seems very philosophical in her ideals and yet we see her court filled with sorts of political characters. Elizabeth, then, is seen with roving eyes, easily distracted by the presence of attractive men. Indeed, it's a crafty way to introduce Elizabeth before Director Kapur plunges his audience into a compelling tale of treachery, assassination attempts and romance that affects the Virgin Queen during her reign.
The film carries a mix of intriguing historical facts, legends and myths in ways that one can only expect history teachers of English public schools to apply to make their lessons interesting, or hear from gossipy English peers, from history classes, wanting to impress their friends with stranger-than-fiction tidbits and hearsay of those times. This film does promise a refreshing tale to grasp! There are those tongue-in-cheek whims and antics that mischievously provoke thoughts of the political and religious changing tides of modern times. Director Kapur has certainly avoided the creation of a history epic, based on dull, dry substance!
Blanchett is magnificent in her strange, enigmatic and multi-dimensional character, constantly faced with the challenges of her foes plotting and counter-plotting to take her down at her Court, in her government, and, from foreign lands. She's seen as almost as a brutal ruler at times and on her consistent guard in her determination to hold on to her throne, alternating between her seemingly vicious whims, her heroism and tangled romantic emotions! Yet, she comes off gracefully as a person who has the heart to forgive. Oh yes, there's also that scene that prompts me to think of Joan of Arc! It's not hard to want to cheer for the Queen in her determination to fight against the religious intolerance, barbarism and fundamentalism of the Spanish Inquisition. Spain was a very powerful Catholic foe and the Church did try to destroy this Protestant Queen and to restore England back to Catholism!
The battle in the calm-to-storm scene is exhilarating to watch. We also witness her struggles in her attempt to balance her duties to her country and her vulnerability to infatuation and tempestuous relationship. Clive Owens superbly handles his role as the dashing Walter Raleigh indeed, one of the most colorful and controversial character of the times and of whom English history has spun numerous tales about. This film also charts Raleigh's colonizing dreams, his involvement in a love triangle, his sweeping in and out of the Queen's favor and his immense dislike for Catholics - that did historically determine his fate beyond this film's exposure. Geoffrey Rush returns as the loyal and polished spy master, Sir Walsingham and historically seen as the man who attracted conspiracy theories. Hhhmh, was he responsible for the birth of modern espionage? He's truly fascinating to watch. This film has a great stellar cast of actors who don't disappoint. There's so much on-screen chemistry oozing out between characters in this film. Oh yes, the villains are so agitating and annoying to the core.
The background music soundtracks come across as dramatically bold and nail-biting, poignant at times, and emotionally mystifying at others- appropriately matching the many guises, moods and whims of the Virgin Queen the cold and strong and always majestic personality vs .her sentimentally vulnerable images - and also effectively reinforce the moments of gripping horrors of the events witnessed or felt. The sounds do have an interesting mix. Some of the scenes really deliver visual cinematic effects that remind me of the paintings of the period. The somber settings work beautifully to support and give intensity to the horrifying scenes and moments. Just love the way the sets and backgrounds are crafted to avoid overshadowing the characters. Oh yes, I love the color schemes presented in this movie to bring credibility to the scenes! The naval battle and Sir Walters' underwater escapade are so fabulously and stunningly crafted - without going over-the-board with extreme flashy special effects and colors to highlight the events.
I was captivated from beginning to end. Oh yes, this film does entertain, sending me on a delightfully exciting spell-bound journey in my attempt to separate legend and myths from historical facts. Oh yes, this film will make English history fun to browse all over again. Yep, I was absolutely entertained!!!