Best of
lMovie Review
by Mira Harber
   The Denmark Corporation is the subject of a hostile takeover and the brooding, indecisive heir apparent, Hamlet declaims the famous "To be, or not to be" speech in a Blockbuster Video store.
   This is latest version of “Hamlet” to grace the screens this summer. Normally, Hamlet runs at four hours long, if spoken in warp speed. This version was just under two hours and in its own way, it is very effective.
   Ethan Hawke plays Hamlet, and for once the actor playing the part is the right age. Lawrence Olivier was about 45 when he did the role, so presumably his father would have died of OLD age. Here it is entirely plausible that Hamlet's father Polonius (Sam Shepard) dies an untimely death at the hands of his power hungry brother Claudius, played to granite jawed perfection by Kyle MacLachlan. Claudius marries his sister-in-law (Diane Verona) in 'untimely haste' after he murders his brother, Hamlet's father, and assumes control of the Denmark Corporation. 
   Hamlet is appropriately lost and indecisive and in the process of trying to make a video of his own to help him make sense of it all. We even see him use a snippet of James Dean (Rebel Without a Cause) and John Gielgud (playing Hamlet himself, skull in hand, saying "Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well") in his own work in progress.
   The cinematography in Hamlet is terrific - we have a thoroughly updated version which works. The setting for the film is New York City. We have lots of spectacular shots of looming, cold, blue steel skyscrapers, and when the ghost of Polonius dematerializes into a Pepsi machine, it is surprisingly effective. 
   Julia Stiles as Ophelia is unremarkable except for one scene where she is standing at the top of the Guggenheim Museum and she lets out a blood-curdling scream that remains with me still.
   The supporting actors are for the most part excellent in “Hamlet,” in particular Liev Schreiber as Laertes and most surprisingly of all, Bill Murray as Polonius. Yes, that Bill Murray. He has turned out to be a fine comedic actor and he plays this part perfectly.
   The music in this movie is wonderful.  The opening strains of Brahms “Symphony #1, The Tragic,” is used several times throughout the film to great effect. Carter Burwell wrote the excellent incidental music to the film. The CD featuring the music from the movie is well worth having and is available on Rykodisc.
   Every age has it's Hamlet, and this Hamlet is a fitting start to the 21st century.


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