This is one of the finest motion pictures made about Imperial Russia. The full glory, and tragedy, of late Imperial Russia and one of the most intriguing scandals of the 20th-century is brought vividly to life. Happily, the film does not indulge in any ridiculous, or lurid, idea that the Empress was Rasputin's lover. In fact, all of Rasputin's sexual antics are toned down (although they are dealt with) but it was quite refreshing to see the psychological side of Rasputin's character explored in more depth.
Alan Rickman certainly steals the show as the mysterious Siberian "holy man," and his complex portrayal of the man who many people still blame for the downfall of the Romanov dynasty was superb, eerie and unsettling in its intensity. Greta Scacchi delivers an absolutely stellar performance as the Empress Alexandra, whose genuine maternal instincts and love for her husband are shown without the tired old stereotype which shows her as an interfering shrew. Ian McKellen is also wonderful as Nicholas II, and once again the film pays a tribute to history by disregarding many inaccurate popular stereotypes. McKellen's portrayal of the Tsar is one of a devoted family man, conscientious sovereign and relatively independent personality; not the vapid, unintelligent, fatalistic, hen-picked moron of popular misconception.
The portrayals of Alexei, Prince Youssopov and Pytor Stolypin were all wonderful as well. The four actresses selected to play Nicholas and Alexandra's daughters also had a beautiful screen presence.
The psychological pressure applied to the imperial family because of Alexei's haemophilia is wonderfully presented, as is the religious atmosphere of late Tsarist Russia. The film's finest scenes is, undoubtedly, the murder of the Romanovs, which helps convey some of the horror of that terrible event.