Tuesday 18th January 2022

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (12A)
Directed by: Shekhar Kapur
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz

Shekhar Kapur (who?!) is back behind the camera for this historical dramatisation of the Spanish Armada. That's right, not content with making one melodramatic, semi-factual period drama, he's back with a sequel to 1998's Elizabeth.

They knew how to draw maps in those days
They knew how to draw maps in those days

The good news is that the key cast members return (Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush) and are in fine form. Better than that, promising newcomer Abbie Cornish is added to the list of players, as is Clive Owen, who is quite possibly the best thing in this film.

For those of you in need of a history lesson (or history according to Kapur) this is the story: Elizabeth (Blanchett) is settled on the throne by the year 1585, and although the population of England is split between Protestants and Catholics, the country is at peace. Elizabeth is still under pressure to marry and produce an heir, but instead prefers to enjoy a love life vicariously through her ward Bess (Cornish).

When Walter Raleigh turns up in court, however, the Queen is quite taken with his charm and charisma, even if she is not so keen on the potatoes and tobacco he brings with him. Of course, she can never permit herself to fall in love with what is essentially a pirate and so we get to experience the private turmoil of Elizabeth as she struggles to cope with her own feelings and the fear of an invasion.

It's a fear that is well founded too, as both France and Spain plot against her, as well as Mary Queen of Scots. All of this culminates, of course, in the Spanish Armada attacking England and Raleigh and Drake battling bravely against it.

In many ways this film shares a lot with the previous Elizabeth film: the costumes are fantastic and the acting is good. It's all very melodramatic, the historical accuracy has to be taken with a pinch (or sometimes a whole fistful) of salt and the storyline is sometimes not very clear. Owen's turn as Raleigh adds some much needed charisma to the screen and the scenes in which he appears are by the far the best in the film.

Possibly the biggest disappointment, however, is the poor portrayal of the battle against the Armada itself. Not only does it feature Queen Elizabeth riding around in armour, but the action scenes are brief, few and unclear, and the overall outcome of the battle is not fully explained. What should feel like a glorious and victorious climax to the film is instead a pathetic fizzle. If you really dug the first one, then this is worth a look, but otherwise you're probably better off looking elsewhere for a cinematic treat.

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Length: 114 minutes
Certificate: 12A
Official Site:
IMDB Link:
Release Date: 2nd November 2007

Top Five Rating: 60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0% (60.0%)
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