- Director:Roland Emmerich
- Cast:Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Xavier Samuel
- Release Date:November 03, 2011
- Running time:130 minutes
- Film Worth:$16.00
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Though far-fetched, this celebration of storytelling is an exhilarating and visually lavish thrill ride.
The authorship debate surrounding the work of William Shakespeare is the basis for this provocative and passionate rewrite of the history books. Rhys Ifans plays Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford, who has a gift for writing, but fears the shame that publishing his ‘sinful tales' would bring on his family. Instead, the Earl hires a young actor named William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) to pose as the author of his plays, as he watches anonymously from the stalls. Furthermore, the Earl's life is complicated by a steamy affair with Queen Elizabeth I in his younger years (told through a series of flashbacks), culminating in deceit, intrigue, violence and a messed up royal family melodrama.
Roland Emmerich (the man behind The Patriot and Independence Day) isn't a director that springs to mind when it comes to Elizabethan England - but he imbues the material with a rousing sense of excitement and fun, blending melodrama, comedy and stunning visuals with ease. The cast are uniformly terrific, with mother and daughter team Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson particularly good in the shared role of Queen Elizabeth 1. Their incarnation of the ‘Virgin Queen' is spirited, sexual and eaten up with relish.
Visually, the film is a remarkable. Never before have Elizabethan times been recreated so vividly, with elaborate costumes, candle-lit interiors, and swooping wide shots over the sprawling streets of sixteenth century London offering a unique and unforgettable perspective of the era. The digital renderings of the Globe Theatre and the Tower of London are especially fine.
The unnecessary chopping between time periods is at times irritating, and it would be unwise to overthink some of the major plot points - but overall, John Orfloff's screenplay hits the right dramatic beats at a blistering pace. Puritans will scoff at the soap opera-esque twists and turns - but with its tongue firmly placed in cheek, Anonymous is an exciting, gripping and passionate ode to the power of words and storytelling.