Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Monday, October 31, 2011


A Triumph In Tragedies

Director: Roland Emmerich
Writers: John Orloff
Cast: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Sebastian Armesto, Rafe Spall, Edward Hogg, Xavier Samuel, Sam Reid, David Thewlis

 Set during the reign and eventual succession of Queen Elizabeth I, it is postulated that Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford actually penned all of the plays that William Shakespeare is noted for writing.

REVIEW: Roland Emmerich, notable director of such disaster movies as Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and the 1998 version of Godzilla, takes a break from the science fact/fiction of the end of the world in favor of the heavier drama of 16th Century England and the works of William Shakespeare. Led by a script by Band of Brothers and The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole writer John Orloff, Anonymous proposes a new version of history with William Shakespeare as a fraud.

During the 16th Century and the England and Ireland rule under Queen Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave), known as the Elizabethan Era, the kingdom is fighting invaders and campaigns on many fronts. From the Netherlands to Spain, England has spread out its forces to defend its interests. During her reign, English drama flourished. In Anonymous, the plays of one William Shakespeare have come into question. Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans - Pirate Radio, young Edward played by Jamie Campbell Bower)) grew into nobility after the death of his parents, taken in and tutored in the was of state, policy, language and philosophy by one of the royal's ministers, William Cecil (David Thewlis - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2). Growing up in a Protestant house, drama, theater and poetry are considered sacrilege. As a young man, Edward becomes a lover of the not-as-young Queen Elizabeth (Joely Richardson), taken by his musings and poet's heart. In later life, knowing that a nobleman would be branded and ostracized if it were known that he had written plays for the theater, Edward approaches Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto - Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) to take his plays and manuscripts under the Johnson pen name and publish and produce his works for him. Concerns about his own work, Johnson balks at stepping forward as the play write. And when the play is received to thunderous applause and Johnson did not step forward, actor Will Shakespeare (Rafe Spall - Hot Fuzz) announces that the play is his work - propelling him into the spotlight for money and notoriety.

There is so much more that could be revealed, but at what cost? A political suspense thriller, the validity of William Shakespeare's work in only part of the story. The lifelong relationship of Edward with Queen Elizabeth holds the heart and center of the film, setting off numerous chains of events that affect both the stability of the Tudor monarchy and the kingdom of England. Back stabbing, stolen work, blackmail, assassination attempts, forbidden love, supposed heirs to the throne, and plots to overthrow a nation all play their part in this classic Shakespearean romantic tragedy.

Rhys Ifans Edward performance is tortured and deep, all the while trying to purge the demons of the words in his mind by inking them to parchment. Jamie Campbell Bower portrayal of the young Earl of Oxford adds lightness and the eventual weight that his later version carries. And what of a queen, played expertly by Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson, whose entire life was shaped by attempts of overthrows to her throne and her crown?

Anonymous is a brilliant work, carrying all of the earmarks of what makes a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy so classic and enduring. Every performance is superb, every actor and actress engrossing. If all the world is a stage, and if period quasi-historical films are your genre of choice, Anonymous should not remain unknown to you.

WORTH: Matinee and DVD


  1. The film had its fair share of flaws but Emmerich really keeps this film moving with a story that is detailed with great mystery to it, and shows his love for Shakespeare’s writing very well. Let’s just hope he sticks away from blowing up the world the now. Good review.

  2. Thanks for the kudos. I hope others enjoy the film as much as I did. It deserves more than a limited release.