Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons star in Elizabeth I, a two-part HBO Films miniseries event that explores the intersection of the private and public life of Elizabeth I (Mirren) in the latter half of her reign, offering a per... more »sonal look at her allies, her enemies and her suitors as she struggles to survive in a male-dominated world. Part 1 explores Elizabeth's tempestuous relationship with the Earl of Leicester (Irons) as it survives a French suitor, war, treason, and illness. Part 2 follows Elizabeth through her later years, during which she had an equally passionate affair with the young, ambitious Earl of Essex (Hugh Dancy), who had been raised, ironically, by his stepfather Leicester. In the end, Elizabeth I sheds light on one of the most popular members of the monarchy who held absolute power over everything... except her heart.« less
"Helen Mirren gives a fantastic performance as the unmarried English ruler. She seemed to get the queen's personality down. I felt as if I was getting a look back at history. Hard to believe such a high quality production was created for TV. You see what it takes to be a great, if not lonely, monarch. You do have to close your eyes to a few historical liberties, such as the Queen visiting her cousin in her prison cell. The movie does have a slow start, but stick with it, it picks up. Some of the scenes are very violent and graphic, so beware of that. The reason to see this movie is too watch how Ms. Mirren portrays Queen Elizabeth I. Worth the viewing time."
M. Potter | USA | 05/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love all that is English, when it comes to history, and this is the icing on the cake. Helen Mirren gives an outstanding performance as Queen Elizabeth, the later years. She "feels" the part and "lives" the part. Adding personality to a much misunderstood royal ruler. Even going so far as to play pinch and giggle with the younger Robert. You can see the pained emotions on her face when she is forced to make a choice between love and her throne. But her heart belongs to England so she lives out the remainder of her life as a woman without love or family."
You too will believe that Mirren is Gloriana in this version
Rebecca Huston | On the Banks of the Hudson | 01/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the things I love about owning a DVD player is that I get to watch movies pretty much as they were intended to be seen: in widescreen format, brilliant colour and sound, and the ability to pause them and have the frame actually stay still. This is especially nice when it's the sort of film I adore -- a costume drama with plenty of details and good looking actors.
Thus is the case with Elizabeth I, a miniseries originally aired on HBO and now available as a two-disc set. Directed by Tom Hooper and written by Nigel Williams, this is a sumptuous treat of a film, full of glittering costumes, period sets and actors who speak and sound right for the time. Instead of showing the usual cradle-to-grave life of Elizabeth I of England, a different tactic is taken, showing her coping with several pivotal times in her reign, and how she dealt with the problem and moved on.
The story opens after Elizabeth has been on the throne of England for about twenty years. She's now in her mid-forties, and her council of advisors are worried that because she has not married and given the country an heir, England stands a good chance of sliding back into civil war. Worse still, there's now the problem of religion -- most of England is Protestant, and most of the rest of Europe is Catholic, two factions that disagree with each other violently, and the only likely heir is the fanatically catholic Mary, Queen of Scots.
Elizabeth (Helen Mirren) isn't about to marry, as we quickly see. She's got exactly what she wants in her relationship with Robert, the Earl of Leicester (Jeremy Irons), down to the point where she has him alone in her private quarters, snuggling and cannoolding with a kiss and tickle or two. It's with her dear Robin that she can be who she wants to be, an animated, sexual woman, but she's also being pressured to marry and on the horizon is a visiting French prince, the Duc d'Anjou (Jérémie Covillault), a young charmer who is also a Catholic, and so, not quite suitable. Most of the first hour is taken up with sorting out this relationship, and we get to see how Elizabeth played the marriage game with such skill and ability.
In fact, the viewer ought to resolve themselves to seeing what Elizabeth I did so well -- Elizabeth the Tease. She plays the game of flirtation, and love, and especially, the 'maybe, maybe' card. It doesn't matter if they are courtiers, her ladies in waiting, or the members of parliment. As we see so vividly, she doesn't quite trust anyone, not even her Secretary, Lord Burghley (Ian McDiarmid) or her spymaster, Walsingham (Patrick Malahide). In fact, Elizabeth wasn't above slapping and throwing tantrums when the mood took her, as we get to see. And in a court where she was the center of attention, anyone who tried to outshine her would be in for a world of hurt -- two examples are when a young lady is wearing a splendid gown, and another when a secret marriage comes to light.
The next big problem in Elizabeth's life is the growing tension with the Spanish, and their backing of the exiled Mary of Scotland (Barbara Flynn), who has taken refuge in England after a successful rebellion in her native Scotland has thrown her out, and replaced her with her infant son. Elizabeth knows that if she Mary 'disposed' of, it will plunge England into war with a far more powerful Spain, and that's something that she can't afford. But she also is aware that Mary is more than eager to see Elizabeth die, and isn't above arranging it to happen. Even her trusted advisor, Walsingham wants her gone, and finally, Elizabeth gives in -- but doesn't want to know how it is done, or even when.
It's this little bit that shows Elizabeth in all of her conniving, canny glory. It might seem particularly repellent in a leader, but the sixteenth century wasn't a nice, mannerly time -- it was the time of the smart and the strong, and a ruler had better be both in order to survive. But Mary isn't entirely stupid either, and her execution occurs pretty much as it had happened, with some pretty gory bits.
Mary of Scotland's death leads into war with Spain and the Spanish Armada. Unfortunately, most of this happens off-screen, but we do get the famous speech at Tilburn, and I have to say that Mirren does it spectacularly well, and in a very convincing fashion. But triumph also has bitterness, as she loses her lover, Leicester to illness.
Ten years pass, and a new generation has come to the queen's court. Among them is Leicester's stepson, the Earl of Essex (Hugh Dancy), another Robin, who isn't quite as smart as his predescessor was, but soon becomes Elizabeth's favorite. He charms, he seduces, and not everyone likes him. In fact, we see that Burghley's son, Cecil (Toby Jones) certainly is not. Cecil is smart, but is a misshapen dwarf that Elizabeth fondly calls "Pygmy." She too, has changed, her clothing becoming more sumptuous, hiding the ravages of time behind ever more layers of makeup and wigs.
Essex is more of a toy than a companion, as we see, and Elizabeth can't seem to say no, even as things start to spiral out of control and Elizabeth discovers that there is one thing that she can't stop -- time and her own mortality.
This is one amazing film. Despite the at times claustrophic feel of the sets and the fact that the crowd scenes seem to be a bit sparse, this is still a spectacle to watch. Mirren shines in this film, and don't be surprised to see her walk off with an award or two come January 15th. Besides Mirren, I appreciated that neither the characters of Leicester or d'Anjou were shown as lacking as they have been in other films about Elizabeth I. D'Anjou is particularly effective, being sympathetic, and knowing it is all a charade, and not the gibbering twit that we were treated to in the version with Cate Blanchett. Jeremy Irons is a sauve, polished courtier, not the sullen boy toy, and is very believable as Elizabeth's longtime confidant and friend.
Some caveats. This film is not for the squeamish. There is one torture scene, several beheadings, one hand getting whacked off, and the rather more gruesome details of what is known as a traitor's death -- being hung, drawn and quartered. I'll spare you what that actually means, but it's a pretty messy sight. There are also two glaring historical errors in this as well: Elizabeth never met either Mary, Queen of Scots, nor James VI pf Scotland in her life. She certainly corresponded with them, but they never met in person.
To balance the gory bits, there are two featurettes that are accessed through the special features. One is a 'making of' feature that goes into the casting, direction, locations and costumes for the series. The other is a rather nice little surprise that goes into the actual history of Elizabeth I and her political and personal relationships, presented by none other than David Starkey, a historian that I have come to like and admire. He also presents with what I have to say is the best description of the sex life of Elizabeth I that I have ever heard -- and no, you're going to have to sit and watch just like I did, because it is too good to miss.
This is not a short program, coming in at about 220 minutes, shown in two parts. Worth it just for Helen Mirren alone, and the other actors are fine icing to the cake. Great for costume junkies, history fans, and anyone who wants to see a woman who set the world on its ear -- after all, that period of time is still known as the Elizabethan period, and it's easy to see why with this. My favorite so far in the various films about Elizabeth I.
This scooped up a mountain of Emmys for 2006, including Best Miniseries, awards for production values and Bests for Mirren and Irons.
Five very solid stars, and I would give it six if I could."
Glory Of Her Crown
Blue Eagle | Sydney, Australia | 09/18/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I grew up with the magnificent Glenda Jackson version of Elizabeth R, and to me she is the definitive Gloriana. Helen Mirren is superb, but to my mind too flirtatious and indecisive. I don't think the imperious Elizabeth would necessarily have cracked jokes with her courtiers to this extent. Her relationship with the love of her life, the Earl of Leicester, senstively portrayed by Jeremy Irons, is well done, but Leicester did not die in her arms after the defeat of the Armada. Neither did Elizabeth ever meet Mary Queen of Scots (played as a simpering Frenchwoman by Barbara Flynn) or even more bizarrely, her successor, James VI, and Mary was her second, not her first cousin. The Earl of Essex story is more problematic. Though it charts effectively Elizabeth's disillusionment with his ambition and arrogance, it also shows her as being totally besotted by him, which I doubt was the case. Other fine performances are given by Toby Jones as 'Pygmy', Robert Cecil, and by the actors playing Lord Burghley and Francis Walsingham, but for historical accuracy as well as Glenda Jackson's magnetism, Elizabeth R remains definitive."
Making 400 Years Ago Seem Like Yesterday . . .
H. M Pyles | Chicago, IL United States | 10/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Elizabeth Tudor was one of the most psychologically-complex rulers in history. Alternately ignored and embraced by a tyrannical father who had her mother judicially murdered, coming very near to her own youthful death in prison at the hands of her half-sister Queen Mary, and threatened with invasion and assassination attempts throughout her reign, she -- almost uniquely among her contemporaries -- nevertheless steered a course of moderation that brought England through one of the most tumultuous periods in its history and left it poised to begin the reach for empire that was to give England dominance over the 19th century.
Her long reign at a critical juncture of English history presents a panorama so large that it is virtually impossible to capture in anything less than a lengthy miniseries such as PBS undertook in the 1970's with Glenda Jackson's bravura performance . . . a miniseries plagued, unfortuately, by quickly outdated production values. Given a choice imposed by a shorter format of whether to survey Elizabeth equally as both ruler and woman or to bring the camera in closer and to put more focus on one dimension than the other, Tom Hooper wisely chooses the latter.
I am a voracious fan of Elizabeth's watershed reign but, frankly, it has been surveyed enough. So I am pleased that Hooper chose to canvas the more complex side of Elizabeth the woman. And I am ecstatic that he chose the amazing Helen Mirren to do the heavy lifting. Certainly her job is made easier by a superb script with just the right balance between known events and intelligent guesses about the personal drives and private maneuvers behind those events. And Hooper places her in physical settings built to the true color and scale of the Elizabethan court, not to the exaggerated imaginings of later generations which produced the Gothic horror show of sets in which Cate Blanchett was made to portray her highly-stylized Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was a woman capable of bold maneuvers in the face of danger who nevertheless drove her council crazy with prolonged indecision. She was a woman who could translate Greek into French, who practiced her music, and appreciated poetry -- but who likewise could don armor and stand as rousing orator in front of her army as the indominatable heir to Henry VIII.
But, perhaps more than anything, she was a passionate, feeling woman whom fate had left with a deadly fear of marriage. In an era when monarchs were expected to marry and produce heirs, she came from a family where marriage had been a death sentence more than once. She lived in an era when women -- even queens -- were expected to subordinate their wishes and their estates to those of a husband. She watched her dogmatic sister "Bloody Mary" plunge England into religious mayhem punctuated by a poor marriage choice. She watched her cousin Mary Queen of Scots lose her throne over an imprudent marriage.
Yet she loved and craved love throughout her life. Ensconced in the propaganda of "The Virgin Queen" -- sufficient unto herself, chaste in person and under the sway of no Pope, no foreign Papist husband, and no English subject -- she nevertheless desperately craved the intimacy and security her role and her family history denied her.
Telling this story is one of history's most instructive lessons on the price that power and success can exact on a person. Telling it well is one of history's most entertaining offerings. Telling it this well is one of those very rare events in film history."