8:00 PM, 18th February, 2012
The authorship of the works credited to William Shakespeare has been debated in literary and historical quarters for many years. Anonymous is a political thriller and pseudo-historical costume drama based on the flimsy notion that Shakespeare's work was done by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (Ifans). Edward de Vere was an Elizabethan courtier, playwright, poet and patron of the arts. The film dramatises events in the Elizabethan court, leading to the succession of Queen Elizabeth I (real-life mother and daughter Redgrave and Richardson as the queen in her dotage and youth, respectively) and the Essex Rebellion against her. The film argues (with much melodrama) that the Earl of Oxford paid the struggling actor William Shakespeare for the use of his name as a nom de plume to avoid political and social ramifications and produced his works as cutting social commentary on the politics of court.
Director Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow, 2012) is better known as a purveyor of apocalyptic action movies, so it is an unlikely combination of his skills with this subject material, yet somehow it works. His deft use of CGI has recreated backgrounds for exterior scenes in and around the London of the mid-16th and early 17th centuries seamlessly and the famous fire at the Globe Theatre is downright frightening in its realistic execution.
Admittedly this film is rather far-fetched, but it presents its argument so earnestly, and resists the temptation to make historical-themed winks at the audience (a la Shakespeare in Love), that you can't help but admire it for its (somewhat misguided) sincerity.
10:25 PM, 18th February, 2012
Curtis (Shannon) is living a comfortable life with wife Samantha (Chastain), a young daughter, stable job, nice house and status as a contributor to the community. However, one thing bothers him - his regular apocalyptic dreams. Are they signs of the paranoid schizophrenia that runs in his family, or are they visions of horrible things to come? Curtis slowly starts to unravel as he tries to prepare for the oncoming storm...
Michael Shannon is a very under-rated actor. He first came to my attention by stealing the show from Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary Road, in a small role as the slightly disturbed neighbour. In fact, he's made a bit of a niche for himself in roles as mentally unstable people (in movies like Bug, World Trade Center and My Son My Son, What Have Ye Done), which carries over here. He's one of those character actors, alongside greats like Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who rarely play a lead role but are often the best thing in a movie. Well, here is Shannon's lead, and he is fantastic. The currently ubiquitous Chastain is also good as his patient wife.
This is another film that may herald the career start of an exciting young director. However, it is the central performance that is the drawcard here. (Bring a friend, because you are going to want to discuss this with someone once the credits roll).