"One of the tasks of a lifetime is to become familiar with the great works of Shakespeare," wrote Roger Ebert, in his 4-star review for Kenneth Branagh’s acclaimed, unabridged film of the Bard’s most enduring tragedy. He continued: "Branagh’s version moved me, entertained me and made me feel for the first time at home in that doomed royal court…. His ’’Hamlet’’ is long but not slow, deep but not difficult, and it vibrates with the relief of actors who have great things to say, and the right ways to say them."
Transforming England’s opulent Blenheim Palace into the Danish court, and shooting on 70mm (DP Alex Thomson shot Alien 3 and Cliffhanger), Branagh gives us an interior epic of dazzling surfaces and dynamism. His Prince is anything but the typical man of inaction; he’s restless, anguished, and pulled this way and that - but always a compelling and charismatic figure, we hang on every word and gesture. He’s supported by a remarkable cast, eclectic (Robin Williams and John Gielgud, together at last!) but often enough inspired. And while the decision to give us the full, uncut text makes this a considerable commitment for the audience as well as the filmmakers, the pay-off is a much fuller and more rounded understanding of the play’s political context - the state of Denmark emerges as a key theme - and what may well be the definitive Hamlet of our times.
"Not only the best filmed adaptation of Hamlet I have ever seen, but the best cinematic expression that I have come across of any of Shakespeare’s plays." James Berardinelli, Reelviews
"As star and ringmaster, Branagh gets to the heart of Hamlet and goes to admirable lengths to take his audience there, too." Janet Maslin, New York Times
"100% Shakespeare and 100% cinema." Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle