Roland Emmerich is best known for destroying the world in films like INDEPENDENCE DAY, GODZILLA, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and 2012. This period political thriller is the furthest from his other work as any film he has done. It’s also easily his best film. Do I believe in its central premise that Shakespeare didn’t write his plays? Not any more than I believe that Shakespeare based ROMEO AND JULIET one his own love affair with a noble woman who dreamed of acting.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave, JULIA), the stage was seen ripe with sedition. The problem was that the queen loved plays, so her handlers William Cecil (David Thewlis, HARRY POTTER) and his hunchback son Robert (Edward Hogg, 2004’s ALFIE) had to tread lightly in their censorship campaign. Amid this backdrop, Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans, NOTTING HILL), the son-in-law of William Cecil, writes plays in secret. After watching the work of Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto, BRIGHT STAR), the nobleman, who is wasting away his inheritance, commands the playwright to stage his work under the writer’s name. Unwilling to take the risk, the opportunistic actor William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall, SHAUN OF THE DEAD) begins to claim he is the author of such works as HENRY VI, MACBETH and HAMLET.