Elizabeth: The Golden Age Review - Cate Can Do No Wrong

Expectations were running high, mine were at least, for another Blassic - A Blanchett Classic. She has proven, without a doubt in anyone’s mind, to be an actor worth her mien thus far. It is not so much that Cate is simply one of the most talented actors around, it is the fact that she personifies these characters – spiritually binding them to her physical self. In the case of Elizabeth, she successfully embodied it with a mighty regal air the real-life queen presumably possessed in the lifetime of her reign. If the first film showed the fragility and diffidence of a young princess in the face of those who stood against her, Golden Age only serves to declare the maturity and complexity of those trials and tribulations she was subjected to as Queen of England.


Majestic were the sets, lush the cinematography, opulent the costumes, and magnificent the art direction. Having helmed the first, Shekhar Kapur decided to return to direct this sequel in historical retelling, and he did it with a ferocious magnanimity, sacrificing nothing. The film could have unduly failed in the hands of a heedless director. Why? Simply because attempting to counter-balance Cate’s flawlessly fiery performance with anything less would have been a gravely unjustifiable and simply unforgivable mistake – sending the film teetering off into the territory of simply good acting, and nothing else to support it.

Powerful dialogue aside, the life of this movie is apparent with every breath that Cate exhales and every word that she utters. She hurtles mirthful quips at individuals with reckless abandon – evoking uncomfortable laughter from the audience. But yet, her face portrays wordless emotions, conveying indescribable pain, joy, confusion - muted by a mask the queen was forced to conceal them with. Cate humanized the queen, carefully employing calculated sensitivity as she allowed us reason to feel for the character, struggling to maintain composure and dignity when adversity struck from every direction. And strike they did – in the form of misled and cowardly traitors, an impending holy war as well as a treasonous exiled queen ambitiously planning to usurp the throne.


We witness conflict in her humanity, her breakdown, and Cate brought it about with such ease. Emotions were raw, to the point of bleeding almost, and the audience had nothing to feel but sympathy. True that when the film commenced, one could not feel more than a certain irritation at her pompous display of arrogance, as she brandished her royal title every instance she could. But we were to learn that that expressed insecurity, and we witness the revelation of such throughout the passing of the film. Fortunately enough, Kapur decided to casually shirk historical accuracy to concentrate on the interpretation of Elizabeth’s decision-making processes, such as visits to the royal astronomer where she openly expressed her fears, fearing no judgment from him. Unfortunately, as she was to learn, decisions requiring a queen’s handling are never trivial for they were often matters that resulted in the death or suffering of countless individuals. Cate fails us not as she deftly guided her character through these engagingly heartfelt and painfully distressing moments.

There is a poignant moment worth mentioning; one where she stared into her reflection wondering what had brought about the lines on her face. It was a lackadaisical rumination but we sighed along with her, for we knew full well their cause, and we suspect that she possessed that knowledge too. She shared this, and most of her tender moments with first lady-in-waiting, Bess (Nicole Kidman look-alike Abbie Cornish) someone we learned early on to be her premier confidante. Their relationship might be easily misconstrued as sexual by some, for they often expressed their feelings with sensual tactility, but it was realized as nothing more than a trustworthy, comforting friendship.


The arrival of Walter Raleigh, depicted by Clive Owen, marked the beginning of a spell of insecurities, mental breakdowns and the resurfacing of suppressed emotions for the queen. His beguiling attempts to chip at the barrier around her sovereign heart proved somewhat successful as her weakening resolve eventually distracted her from her stately duties. Deciding once again that matters of the heart served only to be the ultimate detractor, she irrationally commits to his imprisonment after learning of his improprieties.

Having been betrayed for the umpteenth time, and her prurient desires unmet, she logically expended her energies in the reclamation of peace for her land from the predacious Spaniards, who had declared war in the name of religion, as was apt in the day. Facing the arrival of the Armada, Elizabeth shuddered and prayed openly at the realization that the Spanish Inquisition was onboard. It is shortly after that we see Elizabeth as she truly was to be and at her most fragile, facing unconquerable and imminent defeat. It was only for her love of England that she mustered strength, will and courage – those which could only be summoned by someone affected so. A show-stealing scene, where the queen, clad in armor atop a white horse, demanded her people not to waver as she committed to fight alongside them. It was at this point, as she stepped out into the battlefield to affirm the resolution and solidarity of her soldiers, that we as the audience, were assured of Cate's inviolable success in the role.

It is easy to be blinded by Cate’s beauty and talent, but some would prefer to find fault with these instead of embracing them and letting them work their magic. I simply prefer to let Cate have the audience realize that she is an all-rounded performance powerhouse with the natural endowment of making any situation work for her. Thus, Elizabeth: The Golden Age could have been nothing more than an overblown sequel, but instead stands a chance at Blassification.

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