205 of 222 people found the following review helpful
... Tis well. I'll have thee speak out the rest, too
, February 21, 2010
This review is from: Hamlet (2009) (BBC) (DVD)
"Hamlet" doesn't need any introduction -- the tortured Dane, the ghost, meditations on suicide and a climax full of death. But while many adaptations of Shakespeare's classic play feel stuffy and distant, this "Hamlet" has it all -- sleek elegant sets, powerful acting, and clever modern twists on the age-old stuff. And the best part is the brilliant performances by David Tennant and Patrick Stewart.
Prince Hamlet of Denmark (Tennant) is understandably upset when, only a short time after his father's death, his mother Gertrude (Penny Downie) marries his uncle Claudius (Stewart). But when Hamlet encounters the tormented ghost of his father (Stewart again), he learns that his dad was murdered by his uncle -- but he's plagued by indecision, since he's unsure if the spirit was truly his dad.
Hamlet's behavior becomes more bizarre and erratic -- he dumps his girlfriend Ophelia (Mariah Gale), arranges a play that mimics real life a little too closely, and generally acts like a loon (yodeling with a fake crown?). But when an argument with his mother ends in tragedy, Hamlet's fate is sealed as Claudius begins plotting to get rid of him too...
"Hamlet" is one of those plays that only really comes out two ways -- either you have a passionate, intense tragedy full of very human characters, or you have two boring hours of some whiny guy talking to himself. Having suffered through the latter in the past, it makes me appreciate a well-done performance all the more -- and this "Hamlet" is full of energy, vitality and wit.
A lot of that comes from Tennant, who is simply brilliant as Hamlet -- loads of energy, and a weird edge to his "madness" (example: freaking out Polonius by pulling a weird face). And he runs the entire emotional gamut here -- love, pain, puckish comedy, loathing, sorrow and shock, with the absolute peak being the hauntingly sad "to be or not to be" scene.
And Patrick Stewart is casually brilliant in his double role -- Claudius seems like a genial guy, but Stewart lets out little hints of his true nastiness; on the other hand, the ghost is all heavy intensity. Downie is excellent as Gertrude, and Gale is rather flat in her first few scenes, but after Ophelia goes mad she's amazing. Ripping off her clothes, leaping around, smacking Gertrude -- it's frighteningly good.
And the settings and costumes are similarly amazing. The entire play is done in a sleek, elegant modern style ("mad" Hamlet runs around in jeans), but the grandeur of a royal court is still there -- lots of elaborate formal clothes, and a looming, columned black palace-stage. There are some clever modern twists (Polonius spies through a one-way mirror and security cameras), and there are some truly brilliant bits of symbolism sprinkled through the story (Gertrude seeing the mad Ophelia in a shattered mirror).
This adaptation of "Hamlet" is a solid piece of work, with the smooth feeling of a classic play done by insanely talented people. Also: David Tennant is astounding.
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