Ray Baxter Senior reviewer
It's not often when the sequel outdoes its predecessor, but I think we may have that here with "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." This movie picks up from the 1998 "Elizabeth" (nominated for numerous motion picture awards) and Cate Blanchett is back in the lead role as Queen Elizabeth I.
Taking place in 16th century Europe, the first movie dealt with Elizabeth's ascension to the throne as Queen of England. It was suggested that I rent this movie before seeing "The Golden Age," which I did and it was helpful (although not necessary) in keeping track of the various plots and intrigue.
England continues to be divided by religious turmoil -- Catholic vs. Protestant. Elizabeth is a Protestant and her rule is being challenged by the Vatican leaders through their proxy King Philip II (Jordi Molla) of Spain. While Elizabeth continues her crash course in the art of high-level politics she relies heavily on the counsel of Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush, also reprising his character from the first movie).
Elizabeth is her own woman and rebukes several marriage prospects sent her way that are only for political gain. Yet not being married and having legitimate heirs to the throne is a major impediment to her maintaining a secure rule. Instead she shows a flirting affection for New World discoverer Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) and arranges to keep him close by.
The showdown begins when an assassination attempt on the Queen is thwarted and Elizabeth's main rival to succeed to the throne, her Catholic cousin Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton), is implicated. History tells us what follows are beheadings, and a historic sea battle which changes the course of western civilization.
Australian-born Cate Blanchett is superb and as the movie progresses, you begin to realize there's not another actress who could play this role as well as she does. The costumes are breathtakingly extravagant and this aspect of the movie by itself should certainly garner talk of Academy Award nominations.
Some will be critical of this movie for not being more accurate it its depiction of this major point in European history. But even if the content is only half correct, the intriguing story and excellent acting makes this a winner.