Real Elizabethan Drama; Elizabeth: The Golden Age 12A (1Hr, 54mins) Starring Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush. Director: Shekhar Kapur

Article excerpt

When Gwyneth Paltrow sobbed her heart out as she accepted the 1999 Academy Award for Best Actress In A Leading Role, a more deserving winner sat serenely in the audience.

Cate Blanchett should have been standing at the podium for her extraordinary portrayal of Elizabeth I in Shekhar Kapur's sweeping historical drama.

It was an electrifying performance, revealing the steeliness and vulnerability of a young woman who inherited a country silently at war with itself.

Reuniting with Kapur for this belated sequel, the statuesque Australian actress may yet claim her Oscar as the strident Virgin Queen.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a ravishing period piece, which charts the tumultuous years when Spain's Catholic monarchy declared war on the Protestant monarch.

Production designer Guy Dyas and his team painstakingly recreate the opulence of the 16th Century court and the high drama at sea, as Francis Drake attempts to repel the military might of the Spanish armada.

The film opens in 1585; Elizabeth I (Blanchett) has been on the throne almost three decades but there's religious discord throughout the land. Across the Channel, Spain's King Phillip II (Jordi Molla) is preparing to dispatch his ships with the intention of removing the Protestant queen from the throne.

Elizabeth's burgeoning relationship with seafarer Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), a commoner with a lust for life and bountiful charm, sets tongues a-wagging. Unable to pursue the romance, Elizabeth watches as Raleigh gives his heart instead to lady in waiting, Bess (Abbie Cornish).

The film is distinguished by another virtuoso performance from Blanchett, as the strong-willed woman born into power who rues, "I have given England my life. It must also have my soul."

Owen cuts a dashing figure as Raleigh and Geoffrey Rush is an insidious presence as spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. The romance between Elizabeth and Raleigh tugs the heartstrings, as the queen agonises over her duty to her people and her wounded heart.

Historical veracity is blown to smithereens during the climactic battle, as Elizabeth stands proudly atop the white cliffs of Dover, her frock billowing in the winds of change, witnessing her country's finest hour.

*****

30 Days of Night (15) (1hr, 53mins) Starring Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston. Director: David Slade.

Spare a thought for the plight of va mpires.

They're cursed to walk the earth for eternity, asking only for the occasional buxom wench to desiccate, an excellent dental plan. But they're mercilessly hunted, doomed to a splash of holy water or a stake though their withered heart. And a nice holiday in the sun is out of the question. As for the pleasures of a toasted hot cross bun or garlic bread...

Adapted from the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, 30 Days Of Night attempts to redress the balance, unfolding in the icy wastes of Alaska, one of the few places where the dawn of a new day is met with uninterrupted darkness. …