Roland Emmerich, best known for his disaster movies such as Independence Day, makes an about turn with this historical drama that claims William Shakespeare was a hack. Stars Rhys Ifans. Now playing nationwide, click for movie times and trailer.
The King of Disaster directing a costume drama? It seems about as likely as David Lynch tackling a Katherine Heigl romantic-comedy and yet here we are with Emmerich trying to persuade us not only that Shakespeare was a cypher but also that the director can do more than just blow stuff up. Well, despite the gravitas-baiting intro by old Shakespearian ham (sorry, hand) Derek Jacobi and the clever casting of mother/daughter Redgrave and Richardson as Elizabeth I, he fails to convince us of either.
This isn’t as bad as 10,000 B.C. (whose glacial pace made the ice age appear to pass quickly in comparison), with costumes and set design both top notch, but any hope of Emmerich and writer Orloff putting together a coherent argument is destroyed by muddled narrative that offers flashbacks within flashbacks and sudden jumps in time. It probably didn’t help having the Peter Crouch of British acting in the lead role; Ifans may be an effective presence but he’s ungainly and not exactly fashionable. Plus he sports a distracting smoky eye that Tyra Banks would be proud of.
A film that desperately wants to be Amadeus with its conspiracy thriller overtones, it instead feels more like Mozart’s Sister, a tale of a privileged person denied their artistic freedom who then decides to arse around with royalty. As for its central conceit, it makes the Hughes Brothers’ drug-fuelled Jack the Ripper conspiracy in From Hell look watertight in comparison and seems on a par with The Young Ones’ theory that Shakespeare wrote all his plays on a packet of bacon.