Alex Thompson’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is film 2 of a long-ish marathon I'm doing over at the Filmspotting Forum with a few other members. In it we will be considering at least one movie from the careers of some of our best working actresses (Emma Thompson, Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett, Juliette Binoche, and Meryl Streep) See all of my reviews here.
The only other version of this story I have seen is Joss Whedon's from last year, so this was fun to see it set in a relatively period time and place. When it comes to Shakespeare the casting is always key. Sometimes you'll have great success (see the pairing of Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof from that Whedon version or Rory Kinnear in The Hollow Crown: Richard II) and other times you cast Keanu Reeves. That Emma Thompson played Beatrice's smart, witty maneater perfectly was not surprising. There's something in her that latches on to intelligent women and makes them seem even smarter than they are on the page. She is able to convey a great deal of inside stuff via small gestures and facial movements. Her partner here, director Kenneth Branagh, does Benedick fine, but not nearly as interestingly as Denisof did him. Denzel Washington comports himself quite nicely with the language, and he shares one of the great scenes in the film with Thompson which plays as if they are old friends. It's a really nice scene that probably gets lost in the shuffle since it isn't silly or over the top. Branagh does the directorial bits quite well, I really loved the momentum of it all, and there are some lovely shots of the villa palace thing the action takes place in. Michael Keaton is here, too, but his Beetlejuice thing doesn't fit for me, partially because I could hardly understand him. Ah, so it isn't a masterpiece. It's still a damn fine Shakespeare adaptation, and Emma Thompson continues to impress.