Polygram // 1998 // 124 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // May 23rd, 1999
Absolute power demands absolute loyalty.
This Best Picture Academy Award nominee deserved all the accolades received since its initial release, and more.
For the first time writing a review, I'm not sure where to begin. I usually start my reviews discussing the best aspect of the film. As you can see from the scores below, this is a bit of a tough one. I guess I'll start with the extras, since that scored the highest.
This disc is absolutely loaded with quality extras. Included on the disc is a teaser trailer (widescreen), a theatrical trailer (widescreen), The Making of Elizabeth, Elizabeth Featurette, Photo Gallery (38 photo slides), Cast & Filmmaker bios, an eight page insert booklet discussing locations for shooting and background story, and a director's commentary. You will find the director's commentary under the language menu rather than under the special features menu. The commentary is really quite interesting and is much better than most. While it is not quite as entertaining as some of the commentaries put together by The Criterion Collection (with lots of production and thought going into mixing comments by several principals), it is quite good by most standards. The Making of Elizabeth is a twenty-five minute production featuring interviews with several cast members and the director. The Elizabeth Featurette is a six-minute production featuring more behind the scenes shots during the shooting of the film.
The video on this transfer is quite good as well. Polygram has pulled out all the stops here and given us a top-notch transfer. Colors were deeply saturated, if somewhat muted. Since I did not see this film in the theater, it is hard to say whether this is a transfer issue or a filming issue. But, the clarity is very good, with none of the graininess inherent in some other transfers we have seen. Overall, this rates as a very, very good video presentation. Not quite up to the clarity of, say, a Blade. But, then again, few are. As a great example of the clarity of this disc, simply insert the disc and watch the opening scene of the burning at the stake. As we know, flames can give the boys at the bench severe headaches, but this scene is handled quite deftly and with great detail.
The acting is also top notch. Cate Blanchett excels as Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen who struggles to keep her throne during the late 1500s during a political/religious struggle. Joseph Fiennes is outstanding as her erstwhile lover Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Geoffrey Rush is also outstanding as the Queen's über-spy Sir Francis Walsingham. Lastly, Christopher Eccleston turns in a chilling performance as the Duke of Norfolk, who attempts to gain power at the expense of Elizabeth.
The story is absolutely terrific, if not entirely historically accurate. The writer has taken some liberty here, but not too much. Most of the story is grounded in fact, if not necessarily provable. The film tells the tale of the early days of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately little is known of these days of her reign, as she held court for forty-four years and towards the end of that time ordered destroyed all early pictures of her. It tells a tale of political intrigue, sabotage, power and murder. A tale well worth telling.
The audio here is as good as can be expected. While not a wild shoot-em-up ride, there are some moments where we get to use some surround effects. Not many though. The musical score is what kept my attention on the audio side while watching this film. It was really quite terrific and used to good effect throughout the presentation.
Frankly, I have only one complaint with the entire disc, and that is the performance of Richard Attenborough as Sir William Cecil, the man who takes young Elizabeth under his wing to teach her the ways of governing. I felt his performance was rather mailed-in without conviction of any kind. Since the role is a comparatively small one, it hardly detracts from the overall greatness of the film, but it certainly did not measure up to the fine work done by the rest of the cast.
Elizabeth is one of those great movies that you will want to view again and again. If you had no plans to see this movie, rent it. If you had plans to rent it, buy it. If you have already seen it, well, you know what to do, and you didn't need me to tell you.
Acquitted on all counts. Release the prisoner for all to see.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director's Commentary
* The Making Of Elizabeth
* Elizabeth Featurette
* Theatrical Trailer And Teaser
* Cast And Crew Biographies
* Photo Gallery