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Hamlet Review

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Hamlet, is summoned home for his father's funeral and his mother's wedding to his uncle. In a supernatural episode, he discovers that his uncle, whom he hates anyway, murdered his father.

★★★★★

When Branagh elected to make his vision of Shakespeare's all-conquering tale into the grandest of the cinematic versions, he surely gave little mind to its ultimate fate, placed on a Blockbuster shelf between Mel Gibson and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. Faced with those choices should the casual renter go for hunkdom, horror or high art?

In the end, there should be no debate, just take this and get all three. Feel the quality and get twice the width (plus an interval and recap!). True, squeezed into a letterbox format like a Sunday paper, the much-trumpeted 70mm original loses the jaw-dropping impact it had on the cinema screen, but it is no less richly coloured for its loss of scale.

The top-line performances are uniformly awesome, with Winslet in particular playing well beyond her years. There are stunning support turns too, notably from Richard Briers, Michael Maloney and Charlton Heston, plus well-paced levity from box office carrots Gerard Depardieu, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, and box office turnip Ken Dodd.

So make yourself comfortable on the sofa, dig out the dog-eared paperback that saw you through English lessons, and let your finger hover over the pause button. Use it to catch up on the dialogue. Use it to savour the sheer splendour of the majestic art direction.

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