The costume drama escapes its mothballs in this labyrinthine conspiracy movie, which opens on the fiery persecution of Bloody Mary's reign. When young, skittish Elizabeth (Blanchett) succeeds, one can well understand the misgivings of the court. Cecil (Attenborough) would have her marry a foreign prince to shore up the country's parlous state, but the new queen prefers the company of the charming Lord Dudley (Fiennes). Elizabeth's pragmatic Protestantism makes her the target for numerous Catholic intrigues, drawing in the Duke of Norfolk (Eccleston), Mary of Guise (Ardant) and her nephew Anjou (Cassel), the French and Spanish ambassadors (Cantona and Frain), and even the Pope himself (Gielgud). Best known for the revenge saga Bandit Queen, Kapur is a bold, intuitive director with a taste for melodrama and an aversion towards the staid. hence this eclectic and electric cast. The film plays fast and loose with history but creates a sweeping portrait of her early life and times. It's a mark of how thoroughly Blanchett makes the role her own that we're reminded more of Diana and Thatcher than Glenda Jackson or Bette Davis. Kapur cunningly confuses gender roles, equates sex with death, and rattles through dark, stony passions with some considerable panache.