Elizabeth: The Golden Age a.k.a. “The Golden Age,” “Elisabet—Kultainen aikakausi,” “Elizabeth—Das goldene Königreich,” “Elizabeth: Altin çag,” “Elizabeth: Az aranykor”
Reviewed by: Michael Karounos
Historical Thriller, Suspense, Drama, Biography, Sequel
1 hr. 54 min.
Year of Release:
October 12, 2007 (wide—1,900 theaters)
See our review page on the prequel to this film, Elizabeth (1998).
“Woman. Warrior. Queen.”
“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” is about Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) whose reign was filled with Protestant-Catholic conflicts, internally with her own Catholic population (constituting approximately half of England at that time), and externally with Spain. She was the daughter of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, and her claims to the throne conflicted with that of an older half-sister, Mary Stuart who many believed should have been queen. Mary Stuart is not to be confused with the “Bloody” Mary who persecuted Protestants and imprisoned the 21-year-old Elizabeth in the Tower of London for her part in a plot to overthrow her.
The court intrigues with Mary Stuart comprise a sub-plot of the movie which serves as a justification for making the anti-Catholic theme a central aspect of the film, culminating in the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The film as a whole is a patchwork narrative, interspersed with a love story, which appears at times randomly told. Critics have overwhelmingly panned “Elizabeth.” The conglomeration of Rotten Tomatoes film critics gave it only 24% approval, while such films as “3:10 to Yuma” (87%), “Eastern Promises” (89%), and “Michael Clayton” (90%), films which are anti-Christian, pornographic, or anti-corporate, received glowing reviews.
Although the critics don’t say so, one suspects that the criticisms center around the film’s apparent lack of sex and violence and/or lack of a politically correct message. The critics further call the film a simplification of history, a Barbie drama, and condemn it for its extravagant costumes. Perhaps all of these criticism are valid in part, but it has nonetheless been popular with viewers and made more money in its first week than the contemporary drama starring George Clooney whose solo films, with the possible exception of “O Brother Where Are Thou,” are almost always political and almost never best sellers.
The film has some profanity, shows Blanchett nude (a distant shot from behind), and features some politically au courant scenes of torture (part of the endless Hollywood commentary on torture, as in “Goya’s Ghosts”), but is otherwise unobjectionable in its content.
More troubling from a Christian perspective, is the pervasive (one might say obsessive) anti-Catholicism that permeates the movie from start to finish. Indeed, the movie begins with the epigram “King Philip, a devout Catholic, has plunged Europe into a Holy War.” The film uses a distancing device of never providing subtitles for the Spanish or Latin conversations which take place throughout the movie, an effect which makes the Spanish seem alien and threatening. Their almost guttural speaking tone, their ubiquitous black costumes, black hair and beards, and glowering expressions, all contribute to a portrayal of the Spanish as evil, rather than as simply political and religious opponents.
In spite of all those negatives, I recommend the movie for those viewers not troubled by any of these elements solely for the purpose of watching Cate Blanchett turn in another great performance. She inhabits the strengths and weaknesses of Elizabeth I in so convincing a manner that as a psychological portrait of a person it is fascinating viewing.
From a Protestant perspective, Elizabeth is shown praying more than once and gives her famous Tilbury speech which reads in part:
“We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit our selves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear. I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust.”
There is also a story that news of her succeeding to the throne reached her while she was reading her Bible in the garden. Whether true or not, it is well-known that Elizabeth was a woman of strong Christian faith, leading a powerful nation at a time when subversive forces, social and political, were at work against her. She did so with legendary integrity and brilliance, and, if for no other reason, the movie is worth seeing for a glimpse into what Elizabeth might possibly have been like.
Supporting roles by Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush, and especially Abbie Cornish were all excellent and (in my opinion) helped the film overcome those faults in story-telling that troubled so many critics.
Recommended for adult audiences.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
Producer’s synopsis: “Reprising the roles they originated in seven-time Academy Award®-nominated Elizabeth, Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush return for a gripping historical thriller laced with treachery and romance—The Golden Age. Joining them in the epic is Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh, a dashing seafarer and newfound temptation for Elizabeth.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.