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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Hamlet

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 242 Minutes
Release Date: December 1996
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Billy Crystal, Brian Blessed, Simon Russell Beale, Timothy Spall, Ray Fearon, Robin Williams, Richard Attenborough, Reece Dinsdale, Jack Lemmon, Kate Winslet

Review by Walter Frith
2½ stars out of 4

Kenneth Branagh's 'Hamlet' is perhaps the most ambitious working of the Shakespeare tragedy ever brought to the big screen. Intelligent, literate, exquisite and breathtaking are other adjectives that come to mind when describing this film. The Prince of Denmark and Shakespeare's nobel protagonist is played by Branagh himself. In comparison to Olivier and Gibson's portrayal of this character, I was impressed by the way Branagh was able to add a dimension of subtext in order to make it a four hour and two minute journey well worth the time. The story of Hamlet as almost everyone knows is his determination to avenge his father's death at the hands of his uncle. But the story of this character is much more than that. It's about searching for what being human is all about and how life's complexities and frailties can drive men insane. Hamlet's uncle Claudius portrayed by Derek Jacobi is a sharp and well meaning portrait of evil which Jacobi executes with acute brilliance and his character is just as compelling as any in the film. Jacobi has played Hamlet many times in his career and relates to the story very well in this film playing an opposite character. Lord Laurence Olivier who died in 1989 is perhaps the most famous Hamlet as his 1948 film production won Oscars for best picture and for Olivier himself in the best actor category. Mel Gibson's Hamlet from 1990 was an interesting journey for the superstar who proved there's more to film than 'Lethal Weapon' and 'Mad Max.' Other members of Branagh's production include Julie Christie, Kate Winslet, Jack Lemmon, Charlton Heston, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams. It was photographed in 70 mm and looks spectacular on a movie screen displaying that format which I was fortunate enough to see. Certainly not original but definitely ambitious and alternative, Kenneth Branagh's 'Hamlet' is one you soon will not forget.

Copyright 1997 Walter Frith

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