Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Reviews

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Super Reviewer
December 7, 2010
A wonderfully witty film masterfully transferred from a marvellous stage script to the screen.

The dialogue is constant and highly entertaining, the meshing of Stoppard's modern day speech of the original parts of the story and Shakespeare's original Hamlet practically seamless and masterfully worked.

Gary Oldman gives a superb performance as Guildernstern (or is it Rosencratz - and, at the end of the day, does it matter?) outstanding in a fabulous cast. All in all this film cannot be recommended highly enough.
Super Reviewer
November 23, 2010
I loved the cast and love Tom Stoppard's work, but this predecessor to "Shakespeare in Love" was much less stimulating, even though it was equally clever.
Super Reviewer
August 17, 2007
Humorous take on two minor characters in Hamlet is a bit extended but Oldman and especially Tim Roth are excellent and make a great team of if not exactly buffoons than simple minded couriers. Richard Dreyfus is also full of puckish fun as the leader of an itinerant troupe.
Super Reviewer
February 28, 2008
Two side characters from Hamlet wander around unaware of their destiny as the events of the tragedy unfold around them. Oldman and Roth are great, and the scene where they play Questions on a tennis court is hilarious.
Super Reviewer
June 17, 2008
Intelligent, Cute & Thought provoking
Super Reviewer
July 17, 2007
This is one of my all time favorites. One needs to digest it and really it must get more than one view. A true thinking person's comedy. Two side characters from Hamlet...who cares right? Wrong! This movie (first a play) follows the lives of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern after they have left the spotlight. The conversations, the wit, the Word Tennis...truly a magnificent movie and the magic starts right waiting. Add this to Gary Oldman, Tim Roth starring and you get a glorious film. put this in your collection.
Super Reviewer
½ February 25, 2007
Very witty and intelligent deconstruction of Shakespeare; Roth and Oldman are a superb double act. Everything Shakespeare In Love could've been, but isn't.
Super Reviewer
July 7, 2006
[font=Century Gothic]At the start of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead", Rosencrantz(Gary Oldman) and Guildenstern(Tim Roth) are very much alive and on their way to Elsinore Castle, summoned by King Claudius(Donald Sumpter) to look into the madness of their old pal Prince Hamlet(Iain Glen). On the way there, they have a long discussion about probability and are briefly entertained by a group of actors.[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]Written and directed by Tom Stoppard, "Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead" is an entertaining bit of intellectualizing on the nature of watching a play(One of the characters even refers to himself as a spectator.) but this is no more than a thin conceit stretched to the breaking point. The movie takes the above minor characters from "Hamlet", and pushes them to the lead but they are still on the periphery of the action with which they are interwoven. And the film sadly does not flesh out the characters any. However, Roth and Oldman do a wonderful job acting in tandem.[/font]
Super Reviewer
July 27, 2012
Alas, I didn't end up auditioning for the Hart House production because I didn't have the Shakespearean monologue ready. Nonetheless, it would have been rewarding as Stoppard breathes life into those two characters that cannot have a character sketch done on them. Kooky and amusing.
Super Reviewer
½ April 16, 2008
Existential comedy. It sounds like a contradiction in terms, when you think about it- people contemplating the vagaries of existence hardly sounds like the makings of a laugh riot. And an existential comedy based on Hamlet, one of the most famous stage tragedies in theatre history, sounds even less feasible. But somehow, probably due to the incredible wit of writer-director Tom Stoppard and the fantastic pairing of Gary Oldman and Tim Roth, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead manages to overcome its potential shortcomings, achieving a level of philosophical sophistication that is belayed by its lighthearted sense of humor. From seemingly out of nowhere, we are greeted by two riders, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern- friends who find themselves wandering aimlessly with no memory of who exactly they are (or more specifically, which is which), where they've come from, or where they're going. Finally, they come across a rabble of traveling actors (slash prostitutes), or "Tragedians", led by a nameless Player, and shortly thereafter are stranded in the castle of Elsinore, watching as the events of the play Hamlet unfold mystifyingly around them (and trapped within the span of those events) while the Player alludes to truths that neither man can understand- that they aren't the architects of their own fate, and that they are simply bit players in a far grander story. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are a comic duo who are a lot like Laurel and Hardy, Ren and Stimpy, or, most accurately, C-3PO and R2-D2 (inconsequential characters weaving through an epic tapestry). Rosencrantz (or Guildenstern), played by Gary Oldman, is an innocent, simple character, taking simple pleasures out of his situation and never really looking past the immediate (though he often shows startling flashes of insight that catch us off guard, such as with his preponderance of death at the end of act two). He's sort of a childlike character, and the fact that Gary Oldman is able to channel that so convincingly is astonishing (especially considering the number of evil bastards he's played); he really keeps the film from getting too morbid and serious. The straight man to Oldman's clown, Guildenstern (or Rosencrantz), played by Tim Roth, is a more analytical, hot-headed guy who finds the inexplicable nature of their situation infuriating and is consistently exasperated by his more obtuse companion. While it's not as fun of a part as Rosencrantz (or Guildenstern), Roth does get some good bits as the brighter of the two wits, and all of the dramatic beats originate with him (especially by the end). The pair find themselves subject to the whims of a reality that they have no memory of or control over, forced to take their situation for granted in the hopes of finding a deeper meaning to their presence or, at least, a way out of it all. The key to this would seem to be the mysterious Player, played by Richard Dreyfuss, a burlesque character who mocks their search for truth and seems to be the orchestrator of their situation (even if he, too, is bound by his own part- or parts- in it). Dreyfuss is fun as the all-too-knowing showman whose whole existence is defined by his craft (hence his lack of a proper name), a seemingly obscene character (especially after his first scene) who is blunt and uncaring- representative, maybe, of an indifferent world. The funny thing is that the play (upon which this is based) seems to tackle the idea of "what do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do between their scenes in Hamlet" from a sort of ironic standpoint- that what their doing between their Hamlet scenes is trying to justify their own existence until another scene crops up (in which they are suddenly playing the parts assigned to them naturally and unquestioningly). The fact that these are characters defined solely by what's been written about them makes it interesting when they become befuddled by the gaps in their information (such as who is Rosencrantz and who is Guildenstern, since, in their Hamlet scenes, they are virtually interchangeable) and question exactly where it's coming from. The script is unbelievably good, filled with machine-gun dialogue that toys with the basic structure of language with zeal and wit; it poses some heady philosophical points wedged between almost incomprehensibly fast games of Questions between our heroes. Technically speaking, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is a simplistic film: while a lot of the film is shot on location, the sets stand out when they do appear (particularly the boat set at the end of the film) as, well, sets- the film feels enclosed at times, like it's on a soundstage. Also, the few effects that pop up are far from convincing, but then, that's probably not the point (we see during the Tragedian's faux-Hamlet performance how even the most rudimentary effects can be effective). The cinematography is pretty decent, playing very naturalistically (firelight is the only noticeable source for any non-daylight); the compositions are also decent, sticking to standard two-shots and close-ups (it's actually quite proficient, considering that this is playwright Tom Stoppard's directorial debut); editing-wise, the use of juxtaposition is excellent, especially to show the jump between performance and "reality". Overall, it's sort of a bittersweet tale, which skirts the edge of tragedy and comedy at the end, but its very premise makes it impossible to feel too disheartened when the inevitable finally happens (after all, it's in the bloody TITLE- it shouldn't come as a big surprise), because, as the film establishes, neither Rosencrantz nor Guildenstern really have a life outside of the one Shakespeare created for them, and technically they are reborn each time someone watches the play/movie- which, considering the sharp, clever humor at work here, should be quite frequently. It's a thinking person's comedy, a self-referential exploration of the nature of life and death itself. That, and it's damn funny.
Super Reviewer
November 3, 2012
"Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead" is a two hour long movie about two commoners that wander around making mathematical discoveries and posing existential questions while Shakespeare's "Hamlet" unfolds around them. Though Tim Roth and Gary Oldman have interesting performances and are genuinely funny in a few scenes, the film is simply a downright bore. It's written and directed with no excitement or visual flair and there are times where it almost seems like Tom Stoppard wants to send his audience to sleep. On top of that, it's muddled and pretentious, and a few moments of intelligent humor can't compensate for two hours of uneventful humdrum.
Over the Rising Sun
Super Reviewer
½ August 15, 2010
An interesting riff on Hamlet that benefits from good performances from Roth and Oldman and an amazing script, but I feel as if this did not survive the adaptation from stage to screen fully intact. 51/100
Super Reviewer
½ July 16, 2010
Bloody marvelous movie. It's basically a movie that takes a look at Shakespeare from another angel. It is like the world of Hamlet is the setting however we get a much more interesting pair of individuals to follow. Gary Oldman and Tim Roth are just brilliant. The dialog and banter exchanged between the two is simply beyond compare. The thing is you have to be into Shakespeare to get into this movie so be warned. It is hard to explain in a review like way. The existential view to the characters and the world make it a real cerebral film. What is even better is the fact that neither knows who is whom. This doesn't stop their quest in the least, however.
Super Reviewer
½ March 31, 2009
Roth and Oldman are fascinating to watch as the outsiders in Hamlet. Not only are they unsure who they are but also their purpose. It's hilarious to watch them stumble around totally clueless trying to understand but never quite getting it. The rapport between them is incredible, they go back and forth so quickly, it makes your head spin. It's kind of like watching Laurel and Hardy do Shakespeare. They have great chemistry and delivery of some brilliant dialogue. I needed a hankie for my tears of laughter.
Super Reviewer
September 2, 2006
I am just awestruck by this movie. I went into it thinking it was going to be a comedy, but it turned out to be much, MUCH more than that. Yes, it is quite hilarioius, but it is also intensely philosophical with so many levels that I haven't even begun to comprehend them. It's ingenius no matter how you look at it, and is most definitely one of those films you have to watch more than once. Gary and Tim were excellent, and had amazing chemistry which was just a treat to behold. This is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time, and I'd recommend it to any Shakespeare fan, or fans of witty writing and excellent acting in general.

"A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense not to himself."
½ July 6, 2013
Pretty funny for a spinoff of Hamlet. This is a lot longer than it needs to be, though. Roth and Oldman are a great acting team and have a ton of chemistry. Entertaining film, even though it's not really my thing.
June 17, 2013
Much as he would later do with Shakespeare in Love (1998), writer Tom Stoppard delivered a tale of Shakespearean origin from a skewed and unexpected perspective.
½ November 6, 2012
It works much better when read than as a film, but it's still pretty entertaining and the additional physics hijinks of Rosencrantz are great. The casting is perfect as well.
December 31, 2011
I'm just going to straight up copy and paste the Critic review below this box: "A disastrous adaptation of an excellent play."
November 16, 2011
Putting Tim Roth and Gary Oldman together in a movie is one of the most brillant ideas in film. This movie could be a complete pile of garbage and it still would be worth watching for that pairing. Luckily for us though it was still a work of genius. Based on a play that was created by the film's director; so you know you aren't getting another guy completely turning this into a bastard. And with such a small film that has become a hidden gem (which completely works in everybodies favor) you know no big studio wasn't there adding in what they wanted. You are getting a labor of love. Exactly what was intended. Taking such a tragedy like Hamlet and turning it completely around and putting the main story in the background and focusing on the two minor characters was extremely well done and handled with great execution. Their talks about death and philosophy was modern but very close to Shakespeare, visuals that show physics in work, and the best scene is where they play tennis. But instead of a ball they have to talk to each other only using questions. It was almost like watching an old Abbot and Costello routine. All the dialouge is in more of a modern tone but then they'll slip into Shakespearean with wonderful transition whenever the scene actually intersects with the play Hamlet. If you enjoy tongue in cheek comedy and Hamlet this is for you. Two more things... Richard Dreyfuss... his best performance. Didn't think his Hooper would ever become second best. And I demand that Gary Oldman and Tim Roth work together one more time. Best pairing of actors. Just as great as Newman/Redford or De Niro/Pesci.
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