Part of the enduring appeal of Hamlet lies in its complex characterization and twisty, tragic plot. Hamlet deals with, among other things, madness and revenge, sex and love, politics and treachery, and ghosts, both real and figurative. Yet, despite the depth and weight of the issues it essays, there is still a great deal of humor and good, old-fashioned adventure. Hamlet can quite literally make you laugh and cry, hiss and cheer. It also contains a slew of famous lines, including, but not limited to the likes of "Frailty, thy name is woman!", "To thine own self be true", "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark", "Brevity is the soul of wit", "The play's the thing", "The lady doeth protest too much", and, of course, "To be, or not to be, that is the question."
One of the things that Branagh brings to his adaptation of the play is an amazing visual sense.
From start to finish, this is a stunningly beautiful film, filled with vibrant colors, startling camera angles, and costumes and production values that are among the best of the year. Even if the story was weak (which it isn't), Hamlet would be worth seeing for its pure visual splendor.
Branagh has assembled a top-notch international cast. Well-known actors like Charlton Heston (as the Player King), John Gielgud (Priam), Judi Dench(Hecuba), Billy Crystal (First Gravedigger), Gerard Depardieu (Reynaldo), Jack Lemmon (Marcellus), and Robin Williams (Osric) fill small roles. Most are adequate, and a few (Heston and Crystal in particular) are excellent. Only Robin Williams, affecting a silly accent and even sillier mannerisms, stands out as an obvious concession to commercial pressure. Williams is out-of-place, but his presence is only the smallest of blemishes on a wonderful production.