Films featuring
Kenneth Branagh

Much Ado About Nothing

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Between the mud-stained medieval warfare of Henry V and the emotional operatics of Hamlet, Kenneth Branagh, dipped his toe in one of Shakespeare’s lightest and airiest comedies and produced one of the most accessible and genuinely delightful versions of the Bard’s plays to reach the big screen. Its plot, boiled down to its essentials, will probably seem familiar to fans of modern romantic comedies, proving that the genre is one of oldest, and most durable, in English literature.

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Dead Again

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After measuring himself against no less than Laurence Olivier with his modernized adaptation of Henry V and comparing favorably, Kenneth Branagh took aim at no less a figure than Alfred Hitchcock with his next film. As entertaining and stylish as Dead Again is, Branagh seems to be on much surer ground when tackling the Bard of Avon than he does with the Master of Suspense. Continue reading

Henry V

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Just 29 when he made this, Kenneth Branagh fired a shot across the bow of no less a figure than Laurence Olivier, who had, forty-five years earlier, also directed and starred in his own adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play. Olivier’s version, made in wartime, was intended as a patriotic rallying cry for a weary nation. Branagh’s grittier, more ambiguous version is no less accomplished, although it could stand to be slightly better paced.

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Looking for Richard

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Not long before this movie came out, I spent a couple of weeks in London and, among other things, took in a production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre at Bankside. And unlike my wimpy travelling companions, who splurged for box seats, I experienced the play in true groundling fashion, huddled against the stage in a rain storm. Okay, I don’t think the groundlings of Shakespeare’s day covered themselves in plastic bags, but they would have if they’d had them.

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Hamlet

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When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.

One might call this the Spinal Tap adaptation of Shakespeare’s greatest play, because everything about it most definitely goes to eleven. The first film of the unabridged text of Hamlet and the last film shot in seventy millimeter as of today, Kenneth Branagh’s brazenly, foolishly ambitious project will be the shortest four hours you ever spent in front of one movie. A broad cast of both veteran Shakespearean actors and many who you would not expect in this kind of film wring both drama and raw emotion out of words often calcified under the dreary mantle of “literature.”

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