Anonymous (3 stars)


Surprisingly adept Shakespeare-themed historical romp from blockbuster director Roland Emmerich

(12A) 129min

Director Roland Emmerich is long established as the king of the apocalyptic blockbuster with a career defined by gung-ho event movies Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. It is quite a surprise to witness him diving enthusiastically into a treacly 17th century conspiracy thriller intent on unmasking the true author of William Shakespeare’s plays. It’s a bit like Ken Loach putting his name to a frisky Hollywood rom-com.

Anonymous plays fast and loose with history as screenwriter John Orloff weaves a plausible yarn around the possibility that Edward de Vere, Earl Of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) was the unseen hand behind Hamlet, Richard III and countless others. Desperate to protect his position at court, de Vere selects the drunken, doltish thespian Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) as his stooge.

Intrigue and heartache are neatly balanced with a particularly irreverent depiction of an elderly, confused Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave) as the mother of an untold number of illegitimate offspring. Extensive use of CGI paints an expansive view of London and its muddy multitudes. The facts may be suspect but Emmerich combines craftsmanship and a strong cast (David Thewlis, Helen Baxendale, Mark Rylance) to create a ripping historical romp.

General release from Fri 28 Oct.

Anonymous International Trailer


  • 3 stars
  • 2011
  • 2h 10min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Roland Emmerich
  • Written by: John Orloff
  • Cast: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis, Xavier Samuel, Sebastian Armesto, Rafe Spall, Edward Hogg, Jamie Campbell Bower
  • UK release: 28 October 2011

Director Emmerich dives enthusiastically into a treacly 17th century conspiracy thriller intent on unmasking the true author of Shakespeare's plays. The facts may be suspect but Emmerich combines craftsmanship and a strong cast to create a ripping historical romp.

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1. jpavlvs12 Oct 2011, 11:07pm Report

I take acceptation to the phrase " and loose with history." The overwhelming body of evidence now points at DeVere as the writer of the "Shakespeare" works. Hunter would say Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn, not Samuel Clemens.

2. william Sutton13 Oct 2011, 8:37am Report

I accept the phrase fast and loose with history. Mark Twain and Samuel Clemens are the same person. Huck is fictitious, just like the desire to make eddie de vere into Shakespeare.

3. Bob Grumman13 Oct 2011, 11:53am Report

The phrase, "fast and loose with history" is an understatment. The movie has just about nothing to do with history. I take issue, as well, with the reviewer's claim that "the facts may be suspect." What they are, is egregiously false. There is no body of explicit evidence that indicates that DeVere wrote the works of Shakespeare, or that supports any of the obvious nonsense in the film.

Furthermore, there are huge differences between Clemens's use of the pseudonym, "Mark Twain" and the use of "Will Shake-speare" by DeVere that Oxfordians fantasize:

1. William Shakespeare was the name of a person documented as real; Mark Twain was not the name of any documentedly real person.

2. William Shakespeare appeared in public as an actor under the name, "William Shakespeare"; Samuel Clemens appeared in public as a guest speaker under the name, "Mark Twain"; Edward DeVere appeared in public under the name, "Edward DeVere."

3. Mark Twain revealed in at least one of his writings that he was actually Samuel Clemens (and it was no secret); William Shakespeare never stated that he was anybody but William Shakespeare; DeVere never revealed in any document that he was William Shakespeare.

4. There are several references to the author, William Shakespeare, as "William Shakespeare" by people known to have been personally acquainted with him; there were no references to DeVere as "William Shakespeare" by anyone.

5. All the direct evidence indicates that Shakespeare was the author the sane say he was.

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