Having spent most of his career destroying the world in grand computer-generated fashion, German writer-producer-director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012) apparently is ready to transition into a new filmmaking phase. Working with screenwriter John Orloff (A Mighty Heart), Emmerich sets his sights on ripping apart the notion that William Shakespeare was the actual author of the titles ascribed to his name. In addition, this stunning play for credibility hinges on couching this story within a political thriller about the succession of Queen Elizabeth I (with the daughter-mother combination of Joely Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave splitting performing duties) and the lurking threat of the Essex Rebellion.
Anonymous lives up to the name, as so much of the incestuous and murky political intrigue hangs over the proceedings, obscuring the dramatic impact of a talented British cast including David Thewlis, Derek Jacobi (relegated to a present-day cameo) and an intensely subdued Rhys Ifans as the Earl of Oxford, the purported author of the Shakespearean canon.
With the character of William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) prancing about like a buffoonish precursor to today’s reality stars amidst the roaring drunken theatre-going crowds, the one element missing here is the grand glittering poetry of Shakespeare. The words matter, or at least they should, so why bury them so deeply in the mix? The question of authorship, while potentially valid, should have drifted into the shadows cast by that masterful use of language. Emmerich had the coveted grail in his grasp, which he ultimately reduced to anonymity like just another of wondrous capital of the world. Grade: C