Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
United Kingdom/France/Germany, 2007. Universal Pictures, StudioCanal, Working Title Films. Screenplay by William Nicholson, Michael Hirst. Cinematography by Remi Adefarasin. Produced by Tim Bevan, Jonathan Cavendish, Eric Fellner. Music by Craig Armstrong, A.R. Rahman. Production Design by Guy Hendrix Dyas. Costume Design by Alexandra Byrne. Film Editing by Jill Bilcock. Academy Awards 2007. Golden Globe Awards 2007. Toronto International Film Festival 2007.
Since we last saw her on the big screen nine years ago, Elizabeth has become a beloved and impressive ruler of the great nation of England, keeping the peace between conflicting factions of Protestant and Catholic and increasing the impossibly burdened coffers of the treasury by improving British trade. Her commitment at the end of the first film to rule as someone made of stone is put to the test, however, when a sudden resurgence of Spanish conflict appears on the horizon in the form of Philip II’s dedication to get a Catholic ruler back on the British throne. His intended pawn, Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton) lives imprisoned but keeps close contact with her followers through a secret network of communication. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has made the acquaintance of the irresistible Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), who has conquered Virginia in her name and has captured her imagination with his poetic accounts of the new world he has encountered. Director Shekhar Kapur returns to the subject matter that made him an internationally acclaimed filmmaker and launched the career of Cate Blanchett to very impressive effect; this sequel is even lovelier, louder and lusher than its predecessor, but not as exciting. The freshness of Kapur’s approach and Blanchett’s command of the character are no longer the incredible surprise that came out of nowhere, though that shouldn’t really be held against either of them. What really keeps it from being as good as the first film (though it’s still very good) is a screenplay whose plotting isn’t as dense as it was the first time around. This time the queen isn’t as vulnerable, nor is there an imminent threat of death lying in wait for her around every corner like there was before. Her relationship with Raleigh isn’t as complex as it was with Robert Dudley, beginning passionately but then relying on Owen’s one-note smugness to carry throughout the rest of the film. These are minor gripes, as the historical pageantry that plays out, particularly in the last third, is magnificent, and it’s so nice to see Blanchett giving such a rich performance in a role that she was already a genius at (though it is odd that she’s playing Elizabeth at 53 and not looking a day older than she did in the first installment).