ANONYMOUS Review: Doesn't Question Whether Shakespeare Is A Fraud But Insists

Certainly the film has some historical hiccups and it’s not exactly the strongest script you’ve ever seen however, what we are faced with here is Mr Emmerich’s first genuinely good, solid film.

rating: 3.5

(Our Toronto 2011 film festival review re-posted as Anonymous is released in cinema's today) I€™ve spent the last several minutes battling on how exactly to start this review. You€™ve already seen the numerical value awarded to it because it sits stubbornly at the top of the page so you know it€™s actually positive, so there€™s no sense trying to lull you into a false sense of security pretending it€™s awful (Because otherwise, you would have been totally incapable of scrolling down to the bottom of the page without reading my diatribe). I suppose I€™ll just start like€ Roland Emmerich is the big budget Uwe Boll. There, I said it. Does it feel as good for you as it does for me? Well actually, in terms of movies Roland Emmerich makes big, loud, pointless and rubbish movies, (when your most critically praised film is The Patriot, you have a problem) however in terms of who he is he€™s (by all accounts) an incredibly decent human being and very respectable. But this isn€™t a review of his moral character this is a review of his latest film Anonymous. You may have seen examples of the advertising campaign for Anonymous with the posters adorned with the dramatic text: €œWAS SHAKESPEARE A FRAUD?€ You may be surprised to discover that the film never actually asks that question. Instead it just opts to tell you €œYes. Yes he was a fraud.€ The film is actually a historical thriller about the end of Queen Elizabeth€™s reign and the Cecil€™s and their manipulation of the crown. The question about Shakespeare is never actually asked, just shown. William Shakespeare is portrayed as a loathsome oaf who can€™t even write and The Earl Of Oxford, Edward De Vere (Rhys Ifans) is seen giving him the plays. I personally don€™t have a problem with being duped about the nature of the plot, but just a warning, some of you may be caught off guard. The cast is excellent. It€™s truly great to see Rhys Ifans finally getting his due and getting some good starring roles in Hollywood. It was also refreshing to see that he has finally mastered masking that troublesome Welsh accent of his. He excels here as Edward who is ostracized within his royal community for his poetic and literature driven nature. His study is a wonderful little set, beautifully adorned with some impressive paintings and architecture. The recreation of period London is great, down to the costumes from the architecture. They actually constructed a replica of the Globe Theatre and it all looks extremely impressive and authentic. Instead of focusing on whether Shakespeare is a fraud or not and exploring the possibility of Oxfordian theory (it€™s not a documentary after all) the plot instead actually focuses on Elizabeth€™s reign coming to an end and the conniving Cecil€™s (royal advisors) trying to get King James of Scotland as her successor, whilst also dealing with the Essex rebellion. The Cecil€™s are played by David Thewlis and Edward Hogg and the two of the drip with conniving malevolence and really add to the atmosphere of the film. While Edward Hogg is far more slimy and pathetic than the cruel and cutthroat David Thewlis, the father and son team create a very interesting match. Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth, reaching the end of her reign and starting to suffer to senility is also superb. I mean, it€™s Vanessa Redgrave, everyone is aware of just how great this woman is when it comes to acting! Certainly the film has some historical hiccups€ (Are those muskets semi automatic Mr Emmerich? Really?!? ) and it€™s not exactly the strongest script you€™ve ever seen. However, what we are faced with here is Mr Emmerich€™s first genuinely good, solid film that is a drama and a political thriller with great performances. Yes, doesn€™t sound much like Mr Emmerich does it? Needless to say it wasn€™t the best film I saw at the festival, but I was entertained throughout (first time for everything Roland) and I would actually watch it again. Now, I€™ll actually give his next film a chance, even though he€™ll probably just revert back to his older material. Don€™t you waste my mercy Mr Emmerich. Otherwise your next movie will be UNFORGIVEABLE. Anonymous is released today in the U.K. and U.S.
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