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This review is from: Elizabeth  [DVD] (DVD)
Above all else let us make a clear statement - despite all the historical inaccuracies this is an excellent film.
The film opens in 1558 and we see a young Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) without a care in the world. The backdrop of the film is the religious conflict between the dominant Roman Catholics and the Protestants. Queen Mary appears to be suffering yet another false pregnancy, but she dies (age 42) of ovarian cancer. We see Elizabeth first imprisoned in the tower of London, we see her execution called for by Catholics, and we see her released by Queen Mary and put under house arrest (presumably in Hatfield). Poetic licence is taken frequently in the film, for example Elizabeth is informed of the death of Queen Mary in a summer field, and near an oak tree she make her famous statement from Psalm 118: "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (whereas the actual event would have occurred in November). We see Elizabeth crowned, we see the intrigues start, and we are introduced to the key actors in her early life (Sir William Cecil (Richard Attenborough) as adviser, Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes) as her early love, and Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) as a protestant, trusted ally and, it is suggested, assassin). We also see quite clearly the difficulty that Elizabeth must have had as a young woman pushed into a pit of venomous and two-faced power-hungry, often bigoted, bunch of "gentlemen". Different attempts to conquer her hand, by both the French and Spanish, are compressed into the days that follow her coronation. Different attempts on her life occur, often inspired by the Catholic Church in Rome. But we see her rapidly emerge as a strong willed woman who forces through what appears as a combination of the Act of Uniformity (use of the Protestant Book of Common Prayer) and the Act of Supremacy (forcing public officials to take an oath acknowledging her control over the church). A conspiracy, instigated by the Duke of Norfolk, is discovered that allows her to round up Catholic traitors and separate a few heads from their bodies. We see Elizabeth banish Dudley for conspiring against her (in reality Dudley remained a loyal subject until his death), and we see her disillusioned with many of her advisors and with a series of marriage proposals. Near the end of the film Elizabeth goes through a transformation from a young woman to the red haired, white-faced Virgin Queen that will lead England to salvation and domination in Europe. Anyone who knows a modicum of history will have realised by now that historical accuracy was not uppermost in the mind of the film producer.
Does it make any different to the quality of the film and the appreciation of the viewer - none whatsoever!
Cate Blanchett manages to capture very well the transition of a young and naive girl into the severe and cold Virgin Queen.
All the acting is spot-on, even if the characters might not be portrayed as history would have them. In fact I feel that the character of Elizabeth would certainly bring many people to delve into a few history books to learn more about her and her reign. The film is shot in dramatic settings, and yet retains an almost theatre-like atmosphere. This is an excellent film, despite the historical inaccuracies, and is one of a handful of films that can be viewed and re-viewed with pleasure.