Review of Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Review of Elizabeth: The Golden Age written by Michael Hirst and William Nicholson and directed by Shekhar Kapur
Rating *****

In a world of mindless films about super heroes and comic book characters, it's nice to see that every once in a while Hollywood gets it right. Two nights ago I sat through Pineapple Express. Actually, I only sat through about half the film before hitting the eject button. It's a sad commentary when a film like that has a bigger box office draw than a film like Elizabeth: The Golden Age. This is film-making at its absolute best.

The first Elizabeth, also starring Cate Blanchett and by the same director, was a great film. This follow-up is just as good if not better. This film is an example of what can happen when there is a collaboration between equally talented individuals. I give this film an A in every category: writing, directing, acting, editing, cinematography, set design, costumes, special effects, score. I'm not sure how it was overlooked during awards season. It's rare when a film hits on all cylinders like this one does.

My wife is a bigger fan of the time period than I am. I was drawn to the story and the excellent visuals. You could take just about any frame in the film and sell it as art. That's how visually stunning this film looks. I could go on about the lighting and thoughtful direction, but you get the point. None of that matters, though, if there isn't a compelling story behind it all. And while some might find the pacing slow, I was drawn into the personal conflicts and the march toward the armada showdown. The fact that most of the story is true only adds to the overall impact.

The DVD also had some very good extras including a couple of making of docs and an excellent audio commentary by the director. Unlike most audio commentaries where they spend half the time naming every actor and telling us what talented actors they are, Shekhar uses the format to tell you about the film-making process and explain the importance of various elements in a specific scene. If I were in film school (and I wish I were), this film would be exhibit one for what I would strive for.

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