Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen, Samantha Morton, David Threlfall, Rhys Ifans, Jordi Mollà, Abbie Cornish, Adam Godley, Tom Hollander, Laurence Fox

Directed by: Shekar Kapur

Rating: 1 2 3 4 and a half

Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth in Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Avast, me hearties, and prepare to embark upon a thrilling adventure of dauntless deeds, treachery and intrigue, danger on the high seas and stolen gold. No, it's not Pirates of the Caribbean 4 – buckle your swashes, ladies and gents, because Elizabeth has gone blockbuster.

The year is 1585, and the protestant queen Elizabeth reigns supreme. Yet, beloved by her people, she'sbeset by danger. With Mary Queen of Scots imprisoned in a grim keep Up North and the black velvet vultures of the Spanish court fomenting holy war – not to mention the papist terrorist cell plotting assassination (you can tell they're papist terrorists because they're busy dying everything in sight blood red) – uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

And into this hotbed of intrigue swaggers the piratical explorer Walter Raleigh (a dashing, bronzed Clive Owen, trying so very very hard to make me fancy him, but still not quite succeeding) and suddenly Elizabeth faces a whole new danger – of losing her head over a gallant blade.

Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth and Clive Owen as Walter Raleigh in Elizabeth : The Golden Age

Don't get me wrong – Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a fantastic film. True, it lacks the historical seriousness of its predecessor, but it's all the more entertaining as a result. And it's six times more gorgeous: dazzling us with sumptuous, flamboyant costumes that may take liberties with period authenticity but which are breathtaking never the less; dizzying us with panoramic, aerial shots of echoing cathedrals and palaces, delighting us with beautiful tableaux of stately court life and wowing us with a full on CGI armada of enemy ships that is in fact straight out of POTC.

At the heart of the film, however, lies Cate Blanchett's perfect performance as the Virgin Queen. Many great actresses have donned the famous red wig and stiff, winged ruff, but Blanchett has made the role her own, gracefully combining the regal waxwork of Elizabethan iconography with the fragile, capricious woman underneath, who can throw a strop to rival Miranda Richardson's Queenie and who, at the end of the day, like all of us, just really needs a hug.

With a stellar cast as glittering as it's heroine's wigs, there are plenty of other turns to praise, in particular Geoffrey Rush as the ageing Walsingham, Samantha Morton as a stately Mary Stuart and David Threlfall, who's superb as that most fascinating historical character, the arcane astrologer Dr John Dee. But it's Blanchett who really shines, proving once and for all for posterity that, while Elizabeth may have the glamorous wardrobe of a 16th century celebrity, she has the heart and stomach of a Hollywood legend.

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