Movies Books Music Food Tv Shows Technology Politics Video Games Parenting Fashion Green Living more >

Lunch » Tags » Movies » Reviews » Anonymous (2011 movie) » User review


A 2011 movie directed by Roland Emmerich.

< read all 5 reviews

To See or Not to See? That is the Question

  • Oct 29, 2011
Star Rating:

With all due respect to the writing and literature professors I depended on to educate me as I earned both a Bachelors and a Masters in English, I feel I must admit that I haven’t read a word written by William Shakespeare, nor have I seen one of his plays. I’ve heard nothing but good things, though. And looking back on his history, I marvel at the fact the he rose from his very humble roots to become what many consider the greatest writer in the English language. Despite having thirty-seven plays, 154 sonnets, and several poems to his name, there are those who passionately argue against Shakespeare’s authorship and declare him as nothing more than a front for the writer or writers who, for unknown reasons, could not accept credit. Several theories have surfaced over the centuries, but the most popular cites Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as the true author of the works attributed to Shakespeare.

It’s this particular theory that forms the basis of Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous, a taut and deeply engrossing tale of political intrigue in Elizabethan England. I’m under no illusions that the film is in any way, shape, or form historically accurate, and to be perfectly frank, I don’t think that matters in the slightest; remove history altogether, and you would still have the suspenseful multilayered plot, the rich characters, the flowing dialogue, and the stunning visuals. Whatever side of the Shakespearian fence you happen to fall on – assuming, of course, that you’re deeply embroiled in this debate, in which case I think you have too much time on your hands – my sincerest hope is that you will set aside your principles for 130 minutes and simply enjoy the film for what it is.

The film’s innate theatricality is beautifully exemplified by bookend sequences taking place in present day New York City, in which we see Derek Jacobi lecturing a full audience on the falsehood of Shakespeare’s literary status. We quickly discover that the story is actually a play that’s being performed. At least, that’s how it initially appears; just as the first act begins, the film transitions into a full-scale period piece, meaning we have actually been transported back in time and are bearing witness to the events as they unfolded. We follow Edward de Vere (Rhys Ifans), whose penchant for writing political plays is stifled by his status as an aristocrat. He seeks out English playwright Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto), recently arrested on charges of treason, to stage and take credit for a new play based on Henry V.
After the performance, however, a young actor named William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) steps onto the stage and proclaims himself as the playwright. Thus, history has been set into motion. As portrayed in this film, Shakespeare is an illiterate drunk. We see not a trace of nobility, grace, or genius – he’s a mercilessly ambitious opportunist looking to become famous. I wonder: Is this depiction nothing more than dramatic license, or is screenwriter John Orloff so unconvinced of Shakespeare’s literary prowess that he wanted to discredit him on all levels, including his personality? I lean towards the former, although Orloff has been vocal in his skepticism for over twenty years. No matter; when I look at this movie, I see a lurid drama first and a historical interpretation second. I’m of the opinion that all audiences should view it that way.


One of Emmerich’s more interesting narrative techniques is frequently shifting the story back and forth through time, revealing not only young and old versions of the same characters, but also a labyrinthine power struggle between the Tudors and the Cecils over the succession of Queen Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave). I don’t want to reveal too much here, since half the fun is in experiencing the twists and turns. What I can say is that it ties in with a rebellion led by Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Sussex (Sebastian Reid). I can also say that de Vere is more closely affiliated with the crown than you might think. A key character, who I will not reveal, sums it up beautifully with this line of dialogue: “Isn’t it delicious? It’s almost like a Greek tragedy.”
Roland Emmerich has had his fun with a series of apocalyptic science fiction films, and for much of the time, I was along for the ride. Say what you will about the plot of 2012 – you cannot convince me you’ve seen a movie in which cities are more spectacularly destroyed. Having said that, Anonymous is certainly one of the best films he has ever made. Despite its questionable perception of William Shakespeare, and despite its glaring historical inconsistencies (see Wikipedia for a complete list), the film is a tense, challenging political thriller that always keeps you guessing. Regardless of how familiar you are with Shakespeare’s works, regardless of whether or not you have a vested interested in their true authorship, nothing should hold you back from seeing this movie.


What did you think of this review?

Fun to Read
Post a Comment
October 30, 2011
I have seen the movie, and this is a great review. I find that depicting Shakespeare as an illiterate, inarticulate sociopathic lout, if anything, diminishes the screenwriters argument. After all, if he lacks all of the fine qualities and expressive genius we impute onto Shakespeare, he would not fool anybody with social standing. I also don't know whether to take the screenwriter seriously, as he takes a tabloid view of rumors about Elizabeth having numerous illiegitimate children, putting that as fact. I may post my own review.                                                                                       

I think many people will have issues with the basic premise, and will probably avoid the movie for that reason, nevertheless it is a high quality production which I totally enjoyed. Certainly, the parallel structure between what happens in the plays and what happens in court I found to be very well done, and the scenes are put together in ways we have not seen before. I loved it.
October 29, 2011
great write up. One thing that gave me pause from seeing this was because of the director since he always seemed the kind that relied on visuals rather than solid storytelling. Your review had piqued my curiousity, so I may check this out within the next three days. I am still debating on seeing "In Time"; I mean from the creator of Gattaca, but it has been getting bad reviews here so far....
October 29, 2011
Yes, this is a surprisingly good movie. As for In Time, I find the concept fascinating and I can't wait to see it. Personally, I can't let positive or negative reviews guide me, simply because I know it's all a matter of opinion. Haven't you ever liked a movie everyone else hated, and vice versa?
October 29, 2011
yeah I know. I am just trying to be picky these days since time (pardon the pun) isn't something I have a lot of these days. I did like Gattaca so I may just see "In Time". I'll have to see ANONYMOUS sometime in the weeknights, weekends can get really busy.
October 30, 2011
well, I would like to read your take on "In Time". I saw it yesterday and while I didn't love it, I found it entertaining. I'll see this one in the next three days or so.
More Anonymous (2011 movie) reviews
review by . November 01, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The truth about Shakespeare lies elsewhere
I always accepted the idea that Shakespeare wrote his own plays, and considered anything to the contrary to be merely speculation not fact. So, the premise-what if Shakespeare never wrote a word, I found not to be appealing.      Upon reading some good reviews, I decided to see it, and found it to be a high quality production and a wonderful experience. Director Roland Emmerich previously directed 2012, and Independence Day, and writer John Orloff previously wrote some episodes …
review by . November 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Anonymous received some very mixed reviews. I am not sure why. I thought it was excellent. I love the graphically created London of the time period. The costumes were authentic. And the acting was superb. Vanessa Redgrave was extraordinary in my opinion. Even if you don't buy the theory behind the authorship of Shakespeare's presented in the film, its still a well written thought provoking screenplay.
review by . November 04, 2011
I have to disagree with the luke warm reviews of the movie Anonymous.  I found it to be very well made.  It has an interesting take on the Shakespheare legend.  The acting is top notch, a bit over the top at times, but still great fun to watch.  Vanessa Redgrave chews the scenery in classic fashion.   The special effects recreating Elizabethan London are fantastic.     I enjoyed watching Vanessa and her grand daughter play the same role at different ages.  I …
review by . October 20, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'Anonymous' 'Two Jews On Film' Do Battle Over This Historical Political Thriller (Video)
         Yes...'Anonymous' is a political thriller, but it's one that is set in the past...400 years ago to be precise.   The film, directed by Roland Emmerich and written by John Orloff (took him 15 drafts to get it right) supports the premise that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, (Rhys Ifans)a prominent aristocrat, was the real author of the works attributed to William Shakespeare.        Sounds dull? Believe …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
Consider the Source

Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.

Your ratings:
rate more to improve this
About this movie
© 2014 Lunch.com, LLC All Rights Reserved
Lunch.com - Relevant reviews by real people.
This is you!
Ranked #
Last login
Member since