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Hamlet Reviews

Page 1 of 18
Wildaly M

Super Reviewer

July 11, 2011
I didn't particularly like this adaptation mainly because of Laurence Olivier's acting. In my perspective, he delivers his lines without emotion and at times seems bored with what he is saying. In several scenes, the music seems to be intruding rather than adding drama to the film. Or maybe it was the angles of the cameras. Either way, I did not *feel it* when Olivier delivered the soliloquies. I also disliked the actress who played Ophelia. Her acting was not convincing at all. I suppose it has its merits as it is a mostly faithful rendition of the play but I think there's better versions out there (i.e. Branagh's version).

Super Reviewer

June 15, 2011
Some consider this to be the definitive screen version of Hamelt, and, while I don't agree with that (and also don't think it should have necessarily taken top honors at the Oscars), I do think this is a very enjoyable and well done take on the story.

Olivier might have been a bit too old to play the lead, and the woman playing his mother was actually quite younger than him, and there is a fair amount of the story that has been removed, but aside from all that, there's a lot to like here.

Much of the film is still framed and staged as if it were a play, but this gives everything a unique look to it. There's also some great gothic and somewhat film-noirishness to the art direction and set design- namely the cavernous chambers of the castle. The film als ohas a wonderful mood and atmosphere going for it, which really enhance this version's focus on the psychological side of the story.

The acting is quite strong, as one might expect given Olivier's reputation, but he's not the only one who excels here. In fact, most if not all of the players do a terrific job.

I actually prefer the Branagh version, as epic an undertaken it is to watch, mostly I think, because it was just more ambitious, even if it tweaked the time period. This is still a really good version though, even if I didn't feel it lived up to its reputation.
Jeremy S

Super Reviewer

May 29, 2006
The definitive cinematic rendition of Hamlet. However, Kenneth Branagh's film version of the complete Hamlet does bring out the faults of the Olivier Hamlet by including everything that Olivier had omitted. But still despite all this, the performances, the photography, the art direction and the musical score of the Olivier Hamlet are perfect. I still consider Olivier's performance to be the best performance of Hamlet I have ever seen. Winner of my Top Shakespeare Films.
Emily A

Super Reviewer

February 13, 2007
I really like Laurence Olivier and I think he did a great job but still: I BLEEPING HATE HAMLET! Stupid emo kid. The character is just such an inept stuttering moron that I just want to slap him. You could pour your heart and soul into the role (as Olivier clearly did) and you still wouldn't be able to save him. Ugh. I can't stop imagining Hamlet wearing eyeliner and a bad haircut and delivering that 'to be or not to be' soliloquy over the phone to a yawning, unconvinced friend. "I'm really gonna do it this time! Really!" Truth be told though, I did like the scenes where he was being jovial and witty, but I only two come to mind. This film wasn't bad, but I just hate this damn play.
Lanning :

Super Reviewer

May 23, 2006
And speaking of Olivier while I'm thinking of it, this Hamlet is all right. But just all right. I've seen better, including Mel Gibson on the screen. Granted Olivier's is closer to the text, but Gibson's has the better energy. Off screen, I've seen even better in my time.
John B

Super Reviewer

October 8, 2013
Before Kenneth Branaugh believed that he was the be all and end all of Shakespearean film, we have Olivier actually being the be all and end all of Shakespearean film. It is a condensed version of the play yes but it takes nothing away from the angst ridden Dane as portrayed by a master.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

June 4, 2012
Wow, I didn't think that you could get two-and-a-half hours worth of momentum out of "Hamlet", though I'm sure that it can't get any longer. Oh man, those poor suckers who thought that when they saw this film when it came out had no idea what they were in for. In fact, they probably never even got the chance to find out what they were in for, because by the time Kenneth Branagh's, or rather, Laurence Olivier II's version came around, the people who saw this film when it first came out were probably dead. If not, then they probably died about half-way through, not just because it takes a good couple of years to watch, but because Branagh's "Hamlet" makes you feel a whole lot older than you actually are, because, as I've always said, if you've got enough time to watch a four hour long version of "Hamlet", then you're probably old enough to not have anything better to do. Well, either that, or you have a good taste in movies, because that film was awesome; it was certainly better than this version "Hamlet". Still, make no mistake, this is still quite the classic film to watch, because although it's not four hour long dialogue piece good, it's still pretty darn good. Still, as good as this film is, it's not without its faults, because if you're thinking that trimming two-and-a-half hours from an epic dialogue drama would make it less slow, then you'd be surprised.

The film is slow in pacing and dull in impact, boasting that classic European dryness, intensified by a matching overly theatrical tone over the dialogue deliver that just doesn't fit all that comfortably on film, rendering it often disengaging. However, the dialogue is not the only theatrical aspect that Laurence Olivier, as director, finds himself unable to execute with total comfort that fits off the stage and on the screen. Scene shifts are jarring, and feel as such, with the film jumping to the next sequence with a kind of sloppy episodicity that leaves the lapses in progressive exposition within the source material to stand more glaring, as we truly see just how brief the layer transitions truly are. Another rather problematic aspect within the source material executed to where that faultiness of such an aspect is made more noticable is repetition, and plenty of it. I joke about Branagh's "Hamlet" being too long, but really, the unabriged source material runs an average length of about three-and-a-half to four hours, which go comprised of few changes in location and much extensive dialogue, so repetition is to be expected, yet no matter how much shorter this version is than that of Branagh's, it falls short on consistent intrigue and scope to mostly drown out the reptition, remaining lengthy, with a more meditative atmosphere that augments the feel for the repetition and, by extension, dullness. The film stands faithful to a fault, adopting all of the histrionics and very stage-oriented aspects of Shakespeare's classic play for the cinematic world that it can not enter unaltered without becoming problematic and inorganic, thus leaving the film frequently faulty and slow. However, for every aspect that Olivier translated inorganically, there is an aspects that he delivers on with enough competence and skill for the film to ultimately triumph as a rewarding adaptation, with aspects that fit like a glove onscreen.

The production designs are fine, but not terribly so, yet that is precisely the point, as the structure of this world is livley yet gritty, with deep intimacy and isolation upon the environment and characters in order to pronounce their presence, as well as the dramatic aspects. Credit for such tonal capturing also goes out to cinematographer Desmond Dickinson, whose work goes dated, especially considering that it is black-and-white, yet remains commendable, as he too captures the isolation of the environment with clever camerawork, while capturing the raw grit and subtlety of the drama and tension with clever manipulation of the limited color and lighting. Still, while Olivier taints the film's intrigue with his faulty faithfulness, he himself, as director, also stands as a key player in making the film as engrossing as it is, giving the atmosphere a kind of grace and intensity that may not be consistent in its effectiveness, yet remains prominent enough for the film to engage just a little bit more than disconnect. As director, Olivier is competent, yet remains hit-or-miss. However, as performer, Olivier is consistent in competence, boasting a boldness in charisma that seems to fit the Hamlet role and keeps you engaged during the less intense moments. However, upon the gauntlet's meeting with the floor, tension comes into play, and would be nothing without Olivier, not as director, but as actor, as he captures both the noble and problemic aspects of Hamlet's intensions in a very engagingly clever, yet fittingly offputting fashion, making the character a mysterious figure and his own, transforming into Shakespeare's iconic dubious protagonist with subtlety and grace. Okay, slowing down a bit on my own Shakespearean freneticism, the fact of the matter is that the film remains heavily flawed, yet where it could have collapsed as simply underwhelming, it ultimately triumphs as a satisfying effort by Olivier that's well worth the sit.

As the curtains draw, the final product stands as heavily flawed, predictably plagued by slowness and dryness, yet is perhaps most tainted by the faulty faithfulness that leaves theatrical histrionics to damage intrigue, while the hurried play structure damages comfort in the storytelling, yet where these strikes against the film could have toppled it as underwhelming, relatively impressive and cleverly manipulated production and cinematography compliment the atmosphere within the environment, while Laurence Olivier's direction generally graces the atmosphere with many a moment of sharp intrigue, with his transformative, show-owning acting performance embodying the Hamlet character with a compelling charisma and mysterious depth that helps in making his vision of "Hamlet" a generally satisfying revolutionary piece in Shakespearean filmmaking.

3/5 - Good
Danny R

Super Reviewer

October 10, 2010
William Shakespeare's tragedy of the Danish prince is brought to vivid life by Sir Lawrence Olivier; this is filmmaking at its finest, the greatest play in all literature superbly directed and preformed by the greatest actor of his era, a perfect combination. Olivier's powerful Academy Award winning performance for Best Actor is one for the ages; his brooding, tormented Hamlet is informed by the ghost of his murdered father the King of Denmark, that his incestuous, adulter brother Claudius, played superbly by Basil Sydney has poisoned him to covet his throne and his Queen Gertrude, played wonderfully by Eileen Herlie. Hamlet will seek vengeance from the nefarious Claudius for his foul deeds. The climatic, show-stopping fencing duel between Hamlet and Laertes is suspenseful and masterfully choreographed, the feverishly exuberant swordplay in that fatal encounter is a real stunner. The sets and production design are exquisite: Desmond Dickinson's gorgeous deep-focus black & white cinematography is impressive; with marvelous extreme close-ups and the use of shadow and light with wide angles. There are impeccable supporting performances by Jean Simmons, Norman Wooland, Peter Cushing, Stanley Holloway, Anthony Quayle, Sir john Gielgud and Christopher Lee; But it is the the mercurial ferocity of Olivier's brilliant acting that dominates this motion picture.This cinematic gem won 4 Oscars including Best Picture; the first non-American production to take the Academy's top prize, and Best Actor: Sir Lawrence Olivier. A must-see for any true connoisseur of the cinema! Highly Recommended.
Alec B

Super Reviewer

September 9, 2007
Olivier's version is much more subtle than other film adaptions of Hamlet, but that is what makes it work. Olivier capture's in his performance the fact that Hamlet is unlikeable and is far from being a hero. This upsets many people, but Hamlet is essentially a emo kid who complains a lot.
Alex DeSmall
Alex DeSmall

Super Reviewer

April 4, 2013

Hamlet is a 1948 British picture and it is one of many film adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays. This fine 1948 British's Hamlet is directed by and starred our beloved Sir Laurence Olivier. Well, if you are aware, Olivier is a British actor, director and producer and to have a taste of this gentleman's greatness, he is one of the famous actors of the 20th century. Olivier is easily a classical actor - he played a wide variety of roles on stage and screen and most of them are some major Shakespearean characters, like Hamlet. His contribution for acting, as well as influence on acting for both on stage and screen, has defined him as one of the greatest actors of all time.

Hamlet or, The Tragedy of Hamlet, is a story by William Shakespeare. The story surrounded the kingdom of Denmark and it dramatizes revenge. In fact, primarily, the story Hamlet focuses on the character Hamlet and has an unmatched character development of him in the story. Hamlet is perhaps one the most popular and influential Shakespeare's work.

Olivier's version of Hamlet for the screen could be one of the finest versions of that form, or maybe the best. I am in love with Olivier's method of interpreting this work by setting a gloomy, eerie and isolated atmosphere in the movie. Probably, that form of direction was indirectly referring to Prince Hamlet himself as at times, Hamlet could be 'mad' or violent, and too, he is dark and has a troubled working mind. Further, under his direction, Olivier too has managed to beautifully capture gorgeous looking shots for some of the scenes.

Olivier as Hamlet is wonderful, and his delivery of Shakespearean lines is utterly fantastic - significant clarity in his delivery is very much in evident, and to my belief, that ability makes him a superb actor. Needless to say, his charisma is huge and the physique of Olivier has the 'smell' of an actor who is only suited for a leading role. Olivier is mesmerising. Despite that, Olivier is somewhat ineffective at times. Olivier's performance is great but he hits and misses slightly.

Olivier is well supported by talented supporting players. Eileen Herlie as the Queen is vibrant and believable. The job done by Basil Sydney as King Claudius, Norman Wooland as Horatio, Felix Aylmer as Polonius, Terence Morgan as Laertes and Jean Simmons as Ophelia are all positive.

I have a notion which states that Olivier has a done a decent job. Yes, this picture is flawed, but it is still an effective modification. Laurence Oliver is a great artist, and his Hamlet will always be remembered as one of the greatest film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play.


Super Reviewer

August 28, 2008
An almost prefect Hamlet on-screen,Gamlet as the first,psychological symbolism in Olivier's adaptation.Well-maintained film offering A-class performances and the Shakespearean pathos solid and unspoiled.Minor injustice at the Academy Awards,for Treasure of Sierra Madre should have prevailed that period,besides this it remains a token of great directed plays.
Over the Rising Sun
Over the Rising Sun

Super Reviewer

July 24, 2010
An honorable adaptation of Shakespeare's play that succeeds because of Orson-Wellesian visual style and Laurence Olivier's passionate performance.

Should this have won Best Picture: Might have well. There was some tough competition that year, but Olivier made this version of Hamlet packed with emotion and visual endurance that make it the definite adaptation of the play. 95/100
Ivan D

Super Reviewer

February 20, 2010
Although I have seen the Zeffirelli version first, my memory about the classic Shakesperean tragedy was refreshed by this Laurence Olivier version, which with its black and white coloring and observant-like camera movements, has able to portray the mood of the entire film perfectly. In some ways, this film reminded me a lot of "Seventh Seal's" medieval imageries, with the same black-and-white perfectness. Some would consider this and Laurence Olivier's performance to be very dated and inaccessible for modern viewers, but the psychosis of the Hamlet he portrayed was both puzzling and intriguing, a great insight to the man "who could not make up his mind". The long-tracking end shot was perfect, a grand inheritance from Orson Welles' influential "Citizen Kane".
Lord Naseby
Lord Naseby

Super Reviewer

September 12, 2009
do you ever have the experience that you feel like you should like something just because people say how much of a classic it is and how good the performances are and such but then when you finally get to seeing it yourself you go "whats' the big deal?" that is the experience I had with watching Laurence Olivier's 1948 best Picture winning version of Hamlet. now, I do not disagree that Olivier did a fantastic job as the insane revenge bent prince of Denmark. However I cannot see many merits beyond that. the movie bored the heck out of me. I tried to like it. I really did but I cannot see the big screaming deal. the only reason I gave it a 60% was because of the amazing performances. one problem I had was that it was too stinking LONG!!! it was about 2 1/2 hours long. and that's with him cutting 40% of the play. now, i don't dislike this movie just because it's old. anyone who knows me knows that some of my favorite movies are 50 years old. I dunno. maybe in 15 years I'll appreciate it more (I appreciate it now just not enough to like it very much). Final Verdict: it's powerhouse performances are not enough to save it in my eyes. Replacement Winner: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. that movie rocked!

Super Reviewer

February 3, 2009
Laurence Olivier's masterpiece is a brooding, theatrical gem with exceptionally good acting and a razorsharp sense of good storytelling. Inventive camera work alla Citizen Kane. A modern, psychological interpretation.

Super Reviewer

May 31, 2008
I thought Laurence Olivier was incredible... I really appreciate this the most out of all the Shakespeare plays because of the psycological depth with the relatively simple plot line. This interpretation was impressive in regards to the acting and the directing, especially for its time.

Super Reviewer

March 7, 2006
A tad OTT, too much of its time I'm afraid.
April 7, 2013
Winner Best Picture 1948. Laurence Olivier is a better director than actor here, though he won for Best Actor. I wasn't really feeling his version of the Danish Prince to some other incarnations. However, the camerawork and cinematography is beautifully done. Shakespeare purists will hate that almost half the play has been cut out, but it is understandable why Olivier had to trim it down. It does drag in some spots, but the movie is a good watch if you are able to sit through it.

Grade: B
December 4, 2011
while I mostly enjoyed this film, there was still a part of me that zoned out and got bored when Billy Shakespeare got wordy. Olivier really didn't wow me with his interpretation of Hamlet as a character--I actually thought it was kinda flat. the internalization of some of his monologues didn't do much for me either....felt counter-intuitive to the nature of the piece. the best characters, I thought, were the women. Jean Simmons' Ophelia truly is downright nuts towards the end, and Eileen Herlie's Gertrude seems to have a wide array of emotions in opposition to her long-winded and oft-stone-faced son. some of the minor characters were pretty solid too, like Horatio and a delightfully foppish Peter Cushing as Osric. overall enjoyable, but the "psychological drama of a 40-year-old prince of Denmark" angle struck me as overly dry and artsy.
December 22, 2009
Laurence Olivier's Hamlet is a theatrical version of Shakespeare's play. In this story Prince Hamlet's father, King Hamlet, has died and it turns out he was murdered (by being poisoned in the ear) so Hamlet wants revenge. The film ends with a bunch of people dying.

I never enjoyed reading Shakespeare and I didn't enjoy this film. You'd think all the people dying would make it cool, but it wasn't. The method of dying was also sort of strange for most of the people (ear poison, cut to the wrist, cut to the shoulder). For a Shakespeare purist, this film has issues as it left out quite a few things. From a critical standpoint, it won a few Oscars including best picture. Not much else to say.

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