It's not easy being a queen. Apparently, it's not easy to make an interesting movie on a queen either.
"Elizabeth II - The Golden Age", a sequel of the 1998 "Elizabeth" -- also directed by Shekhar Kapur -- attempts to capture the drama and political strife out of which queen Elizabeth tries to establish her reign over what was arguably one of the greatest periods of British history.
The director had some great historic material to work with along with the luxury of some great actors, but in the end, it is one great opportunity squandered.
The cast includes Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen, who can shine through any bleak writing and ponderous direction. Blanchett is a great actress who lately has been on a roll with her performances, and is luminous enough to salvage this movie. Similarly, Owen too tries his best to transcend some of the weak dialogues.
Fine actors like Abbie Cornish -- playing Bess, the Queen's favourite lady-in-waiting -- ably support Blanchett and Owen. Though appearing in just a few scenes as the treacherous Mary Stuart, Samantha Morton comes close to stealing the limelight.
The movie starts with the life of queen Elizabeth in 1585, a good 27 years into her reign, leading a stubborn England that won't acknowledge Spain as an ascendant power. In Scotland, the Catholic Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots is under house arrest and is a potential heir to the throne and is a thorn on the queen's side. Elizabeth's advisers hound her to get married but she is smitten with Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh is the dashing entrepreneur/explorer trying to sell the merits of tobacco.
Most of the 'action' takes place in dark halls, prison torture chambers and in the bedroom. The script offers very little for the actors, having to spew out lines like "you need to drink control". The scenes between Elizabeth and Raliegh would have been clearly flat if it wasn't for Blanchett and Owen.
They breathe some life into the wooden dialogue. The film score by Craig Armstrong and A.R Rahman doesn't help either. The music rises, swells and obtrudes at inopportune times trying to make the scenes more dramatic than they really are.
At times it feels like the movie takes itself too seriously with nary a light moment. The dark interiors, especially the torture scenes, get suffocating after a while. The outdoor action of battle scenes comes towards the end. The camera swoons, pans, and circles quite deliberately but fails to add to the drama quotient.
The strong point of the movie is clearly its costumes. Great care has been taken to make the costumes and the court scenes. They inject some life into the movie.
The movie fails to live up to expectations but the acting and the elaborate sets with costume designs are commendable. For that it is worth a watch.