- 2 hr 15 min
Respected Italian director Franco Zeffirelli provided film enthusiasts with one of the best loved versions of Romeo and Juliet in 1968. 22 years later, he directed another classic Shakespeare play for the big screen, 1990’s Hamlet. The surprising star of Hamlet is Mel Gibson, better known until then for his roles in films like Lethal Weapon and Mad Max. He more than holds his own in the title role as Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, a troubled young man who longs to avenge his murdered father. The film provides an interesting mix of Hollywood actors and British actors known for Shakespearean stage work. In the former category, you have Glenn Close in the role of Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, and in the latter, you’ll find Ian Holm playing Polonius as well as a young Helena Bonham Carter starring as Ophelia, Hamlet’s love interest. Then there is veteran Shakespearean actor Paul Scofield as the frightening ghost of Hamlet’s father. Both Holm and Scofield had acted in the role of Hamlet prior to this film. In addition to directing, Zeffirelli co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher De Vore. The 130 minute film is a faster-paced and more action packed Hamlet than you’ve seen before, with Gibson providing a passionate performance. With only a little over two hours at their disposal, the writers had to cut a good portion of the text, but the basic vengeful, tragic story arc remains intact. Likewise, Close provides a strong Gertrude, though it’s perhaps Holm’s Polonius that will linger longest in many minds. It is his accidental death at the hand of Hamlet that sends Polonius' daughter Ophelia mentally around the bend, an emotional instability that Bonham Carter memorably vivifies. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Art Direction and Costume Design. It was the very first film produced by Mel Gibson’s company Icon, which went on to produce more films in which he starred, including Braveheart, Maverick, and The Passion of the Christ.