Anonymous - Blu-ray Review

'there remains a lot admire in Roland Emmerich's highly entertaining romp through an idea of individual ridiculousness'

I'd wager significant money that if Anonymous hadn't been centred around the theory that William Shakespeare didn't write his own work, and had instead been some sort of thinly disguised Elizabeth clone, we'd have been at least murmuring about non-technical Oscar nominations.

Theoretical though that idea may be there remains a lot to admire in Roland Emmerich's highly entertaining romp through an idea of individual ridiculousness. Performance wise, leading man Rhys Ifans twirls his moustache and flares his nostrils with aristocratic glee, pointedly hiding grief and intelligence behind your typical 'out-of-place-in-court' period narrative. He's better than Clooney in The Descendants and miles above Pitt in Moneyball. His support from Vanessa Redgrave as Elizabeth is similarly outstanding, as too is the welcome reappearance of Joely Richardson, playing a young-ish Elizabeth. Jamie Campbell Bower, as the young Ifans, is at least OK.

John Orloff's script's ideas ultimately start to get filtered through too many mouthpieces - it would have been infinitely more successful sticking to just one in Sebastian Armesto's Ben Johnson - but don't be deceived by the hoo-haa surrounding the suggestion of Shakespeare as an idiot. Rafe Spall, as said idiot, is on screen for minute moments of time, the bulk of the narrative instead dealing with the repressed genius and forced aristocracy of The Earl of Oxford (Ifans), a much more compelling story, if ever there was one.

Of course, this being Emmerich, who has a reputation for big budget dreck, no-one paid it a blind bit of notice at awards time, and scant little when it wasn't awards time. That is a shame. The German may have been justifiably panned for 2012 and 10,000 BC but other efforts - noticeably Independence Day - show he can satisfy the mob when it matters. This even goes as far as adding deeper thematic undertones, and attempts to cast above itself (would all of the leading trio really star in something as empty as some people claim this to be?), revealing the weight of its pleasingly lofty aspirations. Deeply satisfying stuff, says I.

Look further...

'may not be high art, but it is compelling viewing' - Nix Pix, 3.5/5


  1. Really did not deserve the critical indifference/low box office it took on its release last year. I was very surprised by how good it was, especially with Rolan Emmerich directing. Subtlety isn't his strongest suit but his visual sense was really good here. Regrave should have at least got some murmurs during the award season.

    It's a little sad that this made so little money, while his bigger but shallow spectacles like 2012 and 10,000BC raked in the dough. But, at least we have this film to enjoy.

    1. Yep, couldn't agree more. Had endless fun with it, loved Ifans, if the marketing had perhaps just played up the period forbidden romance of the Elizabeth side of things, instead of the Shakespeare angle, then thing it may have been taken much more seriously.