Kenneth Branagh directs this stylized adaptation of the 16th-century play by William Shakespeare. “Hamlet” is, of course, a cinematic retelling of the story of the titular Prince of Denmark, who returns home to find his father murdered and war threatening to destroy his country. Even worse, his mother is set to marry his uncle, the man responsible for his father’s death.
Combing Shakespearian folios, this is the first unabridged film version of the play. Dame Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Julie Christie, and Charlton Heston complement Branagh’s Prince Hamlet. As for Lemmon, he makes a cameo appearance as Marcellus, a soldier at castle Elsinore who alerts Horatio to King Hamlet’s ghost; he is present when the prince first encounters the spirit. While it’s a minor part, it is a pivotal scene that sets the stage for the rest of the story.
In an interview for the Chicago Tribune, Branagh commented on casting Jack Lemmon: “Marcellus has one beautiful passage early on for a simple man, and I wanted somebody who could come on with that sense of ordinariness, someone whose presence would be startling and make the audience sit up and take note.” Naturally, Jack Lemmon delivers.