Knight at the Movies Archives
Hollywood star wattage is high in two arresting dramas
In Elizabeth: The Golden Age Cate Blanchett continues her thrilling portrayal of England’s famed Virgin Queen.  For nine long
years I’ve been bitter, bitter about Blanchett being ROBBED of her Oscar for her first go at Queen Elizabeth I in
Elizabeth when it was
snatched out of her deserving hands by Gwyneth Paltrow in the light weight
Shakespeare in Love.  Based on the evidence of her
performance in this sequel, Blanchett’s going to get another chance at Oscar gold.  Like its predecessor, director Shekhar Kapur’s
historical thriller is served up bloody rare with all the pomp, circumstance, royal and romantic intrigue one could wish for.

As the film begins, Elizabeth and her court advisors are trying to deal with an almost certainty that attack from Spain with its
unprecedented armada is imminent.  The Spanish king Phillip II (Jordi Molla) is determined to return England to its Catholic faith.  
Unknown to Elizabeth and her chief advisor Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush), Phillip has found a willing ally in Elizabeth’s
cousin, Mary of Scotland (Samantha Morton) and many others in the court hierarchy.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth has fallen hard for the
handsome, worldly but impudent seafarer Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen).  Though Elizabeth tells Raleigh “I like your immensities”
upon hearing his vivid description of his travels to the New World, she’s declared herself married to her throne and her people and
won’t allow herself the temptation of a physical relationship with Raleigh.  But there’s nothing to stop her closest lady-in-waiting, Bess
Throckmorton (Abbie Cornish) from encouraging Raleigh’s amorous attentions.  A triangle of love and envy between the three
develops which dovetails with the outbreak of war between Spain and England – signaled by the swelling, blaring music (it’s an
extremely loud movie).

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is stuffed to the rococo gills with lavish set pieces – a sumptuous feast for a young Austrian suitor for
Elizabeth’s hand, a visit to her private chambers, a royal court dance – and epic battle scenes once the war commences.  Though the
court intrigue isn’t nearly as thrilling as in the first go round (Elizabeth’s hold on the throne is never really in doubt) there’s still
plenty of those secret messages passed back and forth behind the scenes and Walsingham still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve to
ferret out the pretenders to the throne.  Kapur helps discern the intricacies of the complicated plot through the costumes – the
villains all wear black and red, the good guys appear in shades of blue and green.  In one sequence, Lizzie wears dark blue and
Bess a lighter shade of the same color as the two subtly vie for the attention of Raleigh.  When war approaches Elizabeth is shown
striding in front of her soldiers dressed in silver armor looking every inch like Joan of Arc.  It’s a color coded epic.

Kapur has given Blanchett a wonderful supporting cast to work with – Rush is marvelous as the conniving Walsingham, Owen is
alluring as the bad boy Raleigh and Morton is a great, nasty unrepentant Mary – but it’s pretty much Blanchett’s show and this
marvelous actress once again rises to the occasion.  Though this stage of the character doesn’t have the arc of the original – this
Elizabeth is already a woman firmly in command as the film commences – the actress nonetheless finds moments of vulnerability
and longing to round out and soften her rousing, tough as nails portrayal.  When she bellows at the ambassador to Spain “I, too
have a hurricane in me!” as he retreats from her presence you believe her.  Hell hath no fury like this actress in the fullness of her
gifts and its thrilling moments like these that give
Elizabeth: The Golden Age, for all the lush detail and support that Kapur offers, its
most memorable moments.


George Clooney is now two for two this year at the movies.  The breezy, immensely enjoyable
Ocean’s 13 crime caper which Clooney
presided over at summer’s onset is now joined by
Michael Clayton, a dazzling corporate thriller that works as both smart
entertainment and morality tale.  Now if Clooney’s own 20s era baseball comedy
Leathernecks, arriving in early December, is half as
good he’ll have a trio of moneymaking and critical hits – a more than sufficient achievement to wipe out the less than perfect
The Good German received (deservedly so) last year.

Clooney plays the title character, a “fixer” for a high end law firm in New York.  Though he insists to an irate client, “I’m not a miracle
worker, I’m a janitor” that’s exactly what he is.  He’s the guy who fixes the parking ticket, makes the tax problems or the mistress
go away; turns the reluctant witness into an enviable defense, etc.  Clayton is divorced and broke after investing heavily in a
restaurant his ne’er do well brother has run into the ground which keeps him in debt to the firm where he’s tired of being the “go to
guy” for the head attorney (Sydney Pollack, one of the most natural actors in movies).  Things come to a head when a class action
suit the firm is handling for one of their largest corporate client goes off the rails as its nearing a settlement.  Arthur Edens (a terrific
Tom Wilkinson), the brilliant lead attorney from the firm handling the suit suddenly goes batty and tries to undermine the
settlement Clayton is called to set him straight and regain the confidence of the high priced client, a maker of agricultural products
represented by their tough, power hungry corporate attorney Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton).

As Clayton attempts to fix the mess he realizes that there’s a good reason why Edens has turned redcoat and an intricate cat and
mouse plot ensues.  Clooney plays a nicely shaded variation on his usual tough guy persona helped immeasurably by writer-director
Tony Gilroy’s intelligent script.  Gilroy gifts the movie and all the characters with complexities that help expand the standard good
guys vs. bad guys working for the evil corporation framework of the movie.  There’s an emotionally satisfying payoff to boot.  This is
a very entertaining thriller, smart, stylish and cool which reaffirms Clooney’s star status.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age-Michael Clayton
Expanded Edition of 10-10-07 Windy City Times Knight at the Movies Column
By Richard Knight, Jr.