When it was released in 1998, Elizabeth (HD DVD) was nominated for a bushel of awards, but most of them went to a competing Elizabethan drama, Shakespeare in Love. The latter was more accessible, crowd-pleasing, and fun. Elizabeth on the other hand, was a dark take on the early years of Elizabeth I, with the emphasis on the international intrigue and court politics that both preceded and followed her accession to the throne.
Purists will be troubled by more than a few departures from the known historical facts. Some critics have also pointed, justifiably, to the movie's dramatic parallels to The Godfather. But there's no doubt that the politics of the 16th century were Machiavellian, complicated by the intense religious strife of that era. This is immediately addressed in a horrific opening scene showing three Protestants being burned at the stake.
One critic even described Elizabeth as a horror film disguised as a historical drama. I wouldn't go that far. Yes, there are a few scenes of violence, and the R rating is well deserved. But this isn't Saw V . It's history. Not particularly accurate history, but a terrific story nevertheless. It's also supported by so many outstanding performances that it would take too long here to credit them all. But the title role was clearly a star-making turn for Cate Blanchett. She is incredible.
So is this disc. I haven't yet seen a better-looking HD DVD. The beautiful cinematography, together with spectacularly detailed costumes and sets, certainly helps. The images are sharp but natural, from the brightest scenes to the darkest. The colors are lush. I've seen other HD DVDs that challenge this one for the prize as the best-looking HD DVD on the market, but none that can surpass it.
The same goes for the Dolby TrueHD audio. It's every bit as compelling as the picture. There are no explosions, and few truly over-the-top effects (with the exception of the sound of a stunning thunderstorm). But with its natural dialogue, surprisingly vivid bass, a beautifully recorded music score, and strikingly clarity, the sound here is as good as it gets in a feature film.
Picture: 10….Sound: 10….Film: 9.0 (Maximum: 10)
(Reviewed on an InFocus IN82 1080p projector and Stewart Studiotek 130, 78" wide, 16:9 screen, with a Toshiba HD-A20 HD DVD player, an Onkyo TX-SR875 Surround Sound Receiver (used as a pre-pro), and an Anthem Statement P5 power amplifier. Also a Revel B15 subwoofer and Revel Ultima Studio2, Voice2, and Gem2 speakers.)