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Roland Emmerich delivers his trademark visual and emotional bombast, but the more Anonymous stops and tries to convince the audience of its half-baked theory, the less convincing it becomes. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

As royal troops set fire to the Globe Theatre, Elizabethan-era playwright Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto) is tortured by Robert Cecil (Edward Hogg), who demands to know if Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans), is the true author of the writings attributed to William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall). Flashbacks reveal Oxford's passionate affair with Queen Elizabeth I and how -- in his younger days -- Oxford charmed her with plays like "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Cast & Crew

Rhys Ifans
Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford
Vanessa Redgrave
Queen Elizabeth I
Joely Richardson
Young Queen Elizabeth I
David Thewlis
William Cecil
Xavier Samuel
Earl of Southampton
Rafe Spall
William Shakespeare
Edward Hogg
Robert Cecil
Sam Reid
Earl of Essex
Jamie Campbell Bower
Young Earl of Oxford
John Orloff
Screenwriter
Volker Engel
Executive Producer
Marc Weigert
Executive Producer
John Orloff
Executive Producer
Thomas Wander
Original Music
Harald Kloser
Original Music
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News & Interviews for Anonymous

Critic Reviews for Anonymous

All Critics (176) | Top Critics (63) | Fresh (79) | Rotten (97)

Audience Reviews for Anonymous

  • Aug 15, 2017
    Anonymous ambitiously conveys the theory that Shakespeare did not write a single play. A theory that I am very much interested in, The Oxfordian Theory proposes that the Earl of Oxford actually wrote the plays and penned Shakespeare to them. Being raised in a Puritan household, poetry and art was frowned upon but the Earl yearned to keep writing plays. Honestly if you have time, research on this theory...it's absolutely fascinating and definitely makes you question the legitimacy of Shakespeare. On top of this though we have political conspiracies within the Elizabethan court, illicit romantic affairs and plenty of back stabbing nobleman. Very ambitious, both in scale and it's subject...but unfortunately just exceeds Roland Emmerich's grasp. His desire for cinematic grandeur merely takes away from the plot focus and becomes messy. There is just too much. What I did admire though, was the portrayal of how the utilisation of words and art can convey ideologies. As the Earl looks down from his balcony in the Globe Theatre, you can see the power he holds through his plays and how the audience are manipulated through certain character portrayals. After all, words are the most powerful tool one can have. The Globe Theatre scenes were actually some of my favourite moments, watching Mark Rylance performing famed plays such as Henry V, Richard III and Twelfth Night. Rhys Ifans was excellent casting as the Earl of Oxford, his calm demeanour held much authority and power. Vanessa Redgrave and David Thewlis were also noteworthy. I wasn't too keen on Rafe Spall's portrayal of Shakespeare but in order to convey this theory it kind of made sense to make him a rather slimy character. The script and narrative is where the film falters. Exposition followed by backstory followed by politics followed by more exposition...just, turn it down a notch! Focus on the intrigue of Shakespeare being a fraud, would've been a far tighter plot. Also the ending was too...anti-climatic? Having said that, this film is full of ambition and I find it be rather watchable. Not bad from Emmerich I must say.
    Luke A Super Reviewer
  • Jul 15, 2016
    In Emmerich's hands the "truth" about Shakespeare turns out to be boring.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 18, 2014
    The idea that Shakespeare didn't write his plays is not a new one and is definitely worthy of a film treatment but Emmerich isn't clear which direction he should take this. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Is it a tragedy? He seems to have modelled the film on the whole of Shakespeare's canon and the whole thing is a hodgepotch of styles. Ifans is very good as the lead but Spall seems to be playing more of the comedy and it all gets a bit ridiculous towards the end with loads of secrets revealed. A nice try but it's all a bit of a mess.
    David S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 23, 2012
    Whether you believe in the theory posited in Anonymous, or whether facts are ignored or distorted is irrelevant - since this is a fine production that, from the very first frame, tells you the yarn you are about to witness is nothing more than a play based on a theory. Get past whether the theory has merit and you have a ripping good tale, extremely well acted by all concerned that is excellently filmed with a script that, while not necessarily worthy of the Bard of Avon, is intriguing and holds passages of truth and beauty. I really enjoyed how the tale weaves back and forth in time and place, picking up threads from earlier scenes that may be nothing more than portents of what will follow, or things that will give later scenes greater impact. I also enjoyed the injection of selected scenes from the Bard's plays and how they infer what is going on politically at the time. Having seen Henry V at an outdoor theater built to resemble the Globe this past summer, it was a true joy to see the before the battle scene in all its "hooray for England" glory; and then watch the reaction from the "mob" in the audience. Similarly I was also taken with the scenes from Richard III and the explanation that the portrayal of R3 as a hunchback was a direct and intentional jab at the Queen's chancellor. Having seen Sir Ian McKellan in the role also didn't hurt my enjoyment of the scenes. As in even the most serious of the Bard's dramas, there are elements of frivolity, as when the actor Will Shakespeare first read's Romeo and Juliet and then pitches the "but soft, what light by yonder window breaks" bit at a saucy wench and then turns to Ben Johnson and proclaims that he is going to become the premier cocksman in all England. In retrospect, while this tale has enough political intrigue on its own merit, it is the inclusion of the Shakespearian canon that really makes the film sing. Of course if you aren't into the Bard then your reaction may of course be different - and yes, the script does lay on the reverence a bit too heavily, but brilliance is brilliance and I think anyone who values prose can certainly agree that there are wondrous passages of beauty within the Bard's canon. There is a scene when Ben Johnson (who the film reminds us, was the first poet laureate of England) comes to the Earl of Oxford's death bed (said Earl is the true author in this case) and gushes how the Earls words are true masterpieces - similar to the Requiem scene in Amadeus where Solinari sits in awe as Mozart composes the piece totally in his head, without a keyboard present. As I mentioned, all the performances are solid, but special mention should go out to Vanessa Redgrave who gives a stunning performance as Queen Elizabeth, and to Derrick Jacobi as the academian/narrator - using his theatrical training to give each and every word its own sense of space and meaning. Finally, I just have to mention a wondrous bit of writing which occurs about 2/3 of the way through the film. When the Earl's wife confronts him about continuing to write his plays (which, in the protestant faith of his wife, is blasphemy), he explains that he is bewitched by characters who talk to him and it's only by writing of them and what they tell him that he may banish them for a spell. Excuse my clumsy summation of this speech, but it is indeed truly beautiful and strikes a chord within any artist - they don't do what they do because they want to, but because they simply must.
    paul s Super Reviewer

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