Hamlet (2000)



Critic Consensus: Stiff performances fail to produce any tension onscreen.

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Campbell Scott is both star and co-director of this elaborate (albeit economically produced) four-hour TV version of Shakespeare's immortal tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The film is based on Scott's earlier theatrical production of the same play, with several of the same actors repeating their same roles. Updated to 1900 New York, the text remains substantially the same as it has always been: Hamlet (Scott), the "melancholy" Danish prince, discovers to his horror that his late father, the King, was murdered by his brother (and Hamlet's uncle) Claudius (Jamey Sheridan), who upon ascending to the throne, added insult to injury by wedding Hamlet's mother, Gertrude (Blair Brown). Though his desire for revenge is strong, Hamlet does not want any more bloodshed, and concocts an elaborate scheme to "catch the conscience" of Claudius and force him into a confession. Part of this scheme involves Hamlet's feigned descent into madness -- which, as interpreted by Scott, may not be as "feigned" as he thinks it is. Caught in the middle of this intrigue is Hamlet's lady love, Ophelia (Lisa Gay Hamilton), daughter of Claudius' chief consul, Polonius (played in the manner of a protocol-conscious Victorian diplomat by Roscoe Lee Browne). Some of the choices made by Scott in adapting Hamlet to the screen -- the turn-of-the-century setting; the utilization of black actors in the roles of Polonius, Ophelia, and Laertes (who is played by Roger Guenveur Smith); the casting of Byron Jennings to play both the Ghost of Hamlet's father and the Player King, who pretends to be the father -- were applauded by the critics. Other innovations, notably the use of slow jazz music throughout the action, and Hamlet's violent treatment of poor Ophelia during the "Get thee to a nunnery" scene, were not so enthusiastically received. Whatever the case, Scott does a remarkable job with a tiny budget and a slim 29-day shooting schedule. In addition to the actors' lilting interpretation of the Shakespearean dialogue and soliloquies, the film boasts a truly exciting climactic duel, shot in long takes without the use of stunt doubles. Initially produced for a theatrical release, this Hamlet made its American debut as a cable TV miniseries on the Odyssey Channel, beginning December 10, 2000. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
R (for some violence)
Drama , Mystery & Suspense , Romance
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:

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Ethan Hawke
as Hamlet
Kyle MacLachlan
as Claudius
Diane Venora
as Gertrude
Liev Schreiber
as Laertes
Julia Stiles
as Ophelia
Steve Zahn
as Rosencrantz
Sam Shepard
as Ghost
Bill Murray
as Polonius
Jeffrey Wright
as Gravedigger
Paul Bartel
as Osric
Karl Geary
as Horatio
Paula Malcomson
as Marcella
Dechen Thurman
as Guildenstern
Casey Affleck
as Fortinbras
Rome Neal
as Barnardo
Tim Blake Nelson
as Flight Captain
John Martin
as Claudius' Bodyguard
Bernadette Jurkowski
as Blockbuster Clerk
Robin MacNeil
as Player King
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Critic Reviews for Hamlet

All Critics (86) | Top Critics (21)

It could prove almost as definitive -- and far more easily digestible -- than Branagh's textually complete version.

Full Review… | July 6, 2008
Top Critic

The lines are read for the most part with more feeling for the angry-stepchild plot than for the iambic pentameter.

Full Review… | April 26, 2007
New York Observer
Top Critic

Almereyda modernises and streamlines without trivializing, and amplifies poetic melodrama with regular ingenuity and energy.

Full Review… | June 2, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Icy-cold in its palette and unwaveringly cool in its application of modern settings and gizmos to a text that stands up to endless reinvention, this is a Hamlet that brings imagination matched by thoughtfulness to its appeal to both eye and ear.

April 11, 2002
Detroit News
Top Critic

The result is more than a mere gimmick and less than an unqualifed success, but yes -- it's always watchable.

Full Review… | March 19, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

By equating the garish feudalism of the play's original setting with the megalopolis of today's New York, [Almereyda is] at least on the right track. The problem is, it's just about his only track.

October 30, 2001
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Hamlet

A brilliant and astonishing modern adaptation of this classic tale or revenge and tragedy. A dazzling and remarkable masterwork that shines with style and passion. It has such an amazing all-star cast. Ethan Hawke is is truly superb, he gives one of his finest and most absorbing performances. An unforgettable movie that you cant take your eyes off of. It sizzles with energy and fierce dedication to the material.

Al S
Al S

Super Reviewer

Good modernisation, but not as spectacular as Baz Lurmans Romeo and Juliet update. Also, for Hamlet, is not one of the best versions.

Stuart Brooks
Stuart Brooks

Super Reviewer

An all star cast performs and modern day New York is the setting for yet another take on the Bard's most well known play, with less emphasis on delivery of the lines (the iambic problem) than on the emotional intent implied by the words. Not for everyone, but then neither is iambic pentameter. The casting choices are inspired.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

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