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Roger Davidson

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Kenneth Branagh takes on the Bard once again, with this brilliant interpretation of Shakespeare's classic tragedy. The settings have been changed from the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Middle Ages, to the grand gothic of the 19th-century Victorian age. Branagh makes another fine turn as actor-director. Although he's great in the lead role of the melancholy Dane, it's the supporting players that really shine brightly. Julie Christie as Gertrude (in her best performance since McCabe and Mrs. Miller) is splendid and does not overact as outrageously as Glenn Close did in the 1990 version. Kate Winslet (Sense and Sensibility) makes an enthralling Ophelia. And Derek Jacobi is a marvel to behold as Claudius.

Among the lesser players, Richard Briers as Polonius adds a touch of humor to an originally glum character (as previous performers have interpreted him). Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Richard Attenborough make brief (but welcome) cameos, while Gerard Depardieu and Jack Lemmon's roles are mercifully brief. The movie's visuals are the most astounding parts of the film. With the fabulous Blenheim Palace being used as Elsinore Castle, and with superb cinematography (filmed in rarely used 70 mm). Though not the best of the film adaptations of the Bard, this one comes very close to being the greatest.

My Rating = Four Stars

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