Director Roland Emmerich has built a reputation as being the master of destruction movies. Having been at the helm of films like Independence Day, 2012, and The Day After Tomorrow, who could argue that sentiment? Now, excluding Independence Day (who doesn't love Will Smith?), I'm not a particular fan of Emmerich's past work. Needless to say, I was very skeptical prior to viewing his latest piece Anonymous, which is far from the director's comfort zone of catastrophe.
Anonymous tackles the somewhat far fetched notion that the renowned playwright William Shakespeare was not the true scribe of his work. During the late 16th century, Anonymous insinuates that Edward De Vere (AKA the Earl of Oxford, played by Ifans) actually penned the timeless masterpieces. And as a nobleman of the time, Edward could not attach his name to the work. Therefore, he indirectly found William Shakespeare to pose as the author to some of the greatest plays the world has ever seen.
Although many historians would refute this claim to their deaths, Anonymous proves to be an intriguing story and a thought provoking movie. Undoubtedly entertaining, the film is well crafted by Emmerich and perfectly paced. The director does a superb job of developing his characters and interweaving his story against the backdrop of Queen Elizabeth I and the Essex rebellion. Although Rhys Ifans is excellent as the unquestionable star of the film, perhaps Jamie Campbell Bower steals the show. As the young Edward De Vere, Bower's magnificent performance enables the audience to truly buy into the story. It's clear that Bower, who has also found a recurring role in the Twilight series as Caius, has a brilliant career ahead of himself.
Even though the film's two hour plus runtime zips by and its cast does a fantastic job, Anonymous does have a noticeable downfall. When you're redefining history, it takes molding together numerous stories. As a result, Emmerich introduces an abundance of characters and subplots to account for some sense of historical accuracy. This cluster of ideas may lead to some confusion as it's difficult to properly piece the puzzle together.
Knowing Roland Emmerich's history, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't somewhat skeptical prior to viewing Anonymous. However, he does a solid job here and the director adequately creates a clever story that never once feels dull. If you pay close enough attention, the film will surely entertain you from start to finish. If you enjoy a good time piece, I'd suggest checking out Anonymous. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.