xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
The England of the first Elizabeth is a dark and sensuous place; the court lives intimately with treachery, and cloaks itself in shadows and rude luxury. As seen through the fresh eyes of an Indian director, Shekhar Kapur, "Elizabeth" is not a light "Masterpiece Theater" production, but one steeped in rich, saturated colors and emotions. The texture of the film is enough to recommend it, even apart from the story.
Cate Blanchett stars as Elizabeth I, who in 1558, at the age of 25, took the throne of a Catholic country, declared it Protestant, fought off assassination by the French, the Spanish, her rivals and the pope, and ruled for 45 years. She succeeded, the film demonstrates, by learning on the job, growing from a naive girl to a willful strategist who picked her advisers well and ignored them when they urgently advised her to marry: "I will have one mistress here! And no master!" She was known as the Virgin Queen. Virginity for her, as for so many, was something she grew into. As the film opens, she frolics with her lover, Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes), and her ardor only subsides as she realizes no man loves the Queen of England only for herself. She is contemptuous of such other suitors as the Duke of Anjou (Vincent Cassel), who sees marriage as a social move, and is surprised while frolicking in a frock. And her eyes narrow as she listens to proposals couriered in by various rulers who want to marry her as a sort of mergers and acquisitions deal.
The screenplay provides a series of hard-edged conversations in which Elizabeth's enemies conspire against her, and her friends urgently counsel her while she teaches herself to tell true allies from false ones. She is much helped in the beginning by white-bearded old Sir William Cecil (Richard Attenborough), although there comes a time when he must be put to pasture, and Attenborough's character accepts this news with humility that is truly touching.
Then the lurking, sinister Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) moves to her side and brilliantly helps guide her to triumph. He's instrumental to the plot, even though his role is at first murky. After Elizabeth's archrival Mary of Guise (Fanny Ardant) sends her a poisoned dress that luckily claims the life of another, it is Sir Francis who adroitly convinces Mary he will betray Elizabeth. Francis and Mary spend a night together, and in the morning, Mary is dead. It didn't happen like that in history, but it should have.