The film overall is, as people have said, a fascinating study in a time and place that has been cinematically unexplored. What other people haven't mentioned that has astonished me is his attitude towards women reflected in this film.
The lead has one of the most incredible scenes in cinema, when she articulates her hatred of the collaborator when he rapes her and how she wishes they'd come in and kill him. The resisters repress her further and don't want to hear about what she's going through. It's poignant and incredible. Her hatred comes through so clearly, as well as what she has sacrificed of herself and her sexuality for the sake of patriotism (Lee in a Q&A said the film was a study in the conflict between patriotism and female sexuality). However, her hatred gets gradually replaced (completely unrealistically!) with a love for the human side of the collaborator that we never really see. In the end, she ignores all the emotional and sexual abuse he has put her through, for the sake of a large diamond, or so it would seem.
Lee thinks he has made a film about impossible romantic love. And perhaps there are those that view it as that. I cannot help but see it as a film that demonstrates a deep dislike for women and a dismissal of their ability to choose right action over the "love" of a man.
The film was definitely beautifully shot and Cate Blanchett is, as always, wonderful. Technically, the sets and costumes were great, but as a previous commenter said, the love triangle was tedious and I felt the film relied too heavily on grand sweeping shots flooded with choral music, that dragged things down immensely.
Thematically, the film suffered for a number of reasons. In this day and age of religious strife, to pit Elizabeth, the white English Protestant who supposedly (in the film) supports freedom of belief (nothing could be further from the historical truth) against the swarthier, Arabic looking religious fundamentalist Philip of Spain (note: his Arabic appearance is historically accurate, but still) creates an uncomfortably clear reductionist parallel to modern conflicts that detracts from the film. Philip giggles like a madman the whole time, clutching his Bible.
Moreover, in attempting to make Elizabeth an accessible woman, the film focuses so much on her 'feminine vulnerabilities' and need for love that it drains her of the power and political astuteness that marked one of the greatest leaders, male or female, that the world has ever known. Elizabeth I was a POWERFUL POLITICIAN, not a giggling girl simpering at the feet of a man.
When the film focuses on the political intrigues and the decisive destruction of the Spanish Armada, it shines. When it focuses on the love triangle and reductionist religious fundamentalism, it fails. Sadly, so much of the film focuses on the latter that it is a trial to make it through the two hours.