Hamlet (2000): Ethan Hawke as Hamlet, Kyle MacLachlan as Claudius, Diane Venora as Gertrude, Julia Stiles as Ophelia, Liev Schreiber as Laertes, Bill Murray as Polonius, and Sam Shepard as the ghost of Hamlet's father. Ambitious, abridged version set in modern day New York, where Denmark is a corporation and their castle is a luxury hotel.
Mostly positive, it did a very good job of telling the central story in a clear manner. It served to highlight a couple of things I hadn't quite copped on to in the past, such as the difficult position Ophelia was put in. The Branagh Hamlet (1996) left me with the impression that her downfall was all Hamlet's fault, but this version shows the influence of her protective brother (Laertes) and father (Polonius) in causing her hang-ups about Hamlet. Laertes gets just a bit too close to her for her (and the audience's) comfort at one point, coming across as a little creepy and incestuous. Any wonder she's screwed up?
However, this is where Bill Murray lets the film down a bit. There's a scene in which he confronts Gertrude (Hamlet's mother) and Claudius (Hamlet's uncle, Gertrude's new husband) about Hamlet's craziness, and tells them to tell Hamlet to stay away. Polonius should be angry, emotional, highly concerned about his daughter - but Murray doesn't have the "method" range to look more than slightly annoyed. Polonius' death is also, shall we say, underwhelming.
Not all the modern-day updating makes perfect sense e.g. in the play, Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern take Hamlet to England, carrying orders to "England" that Hamlet is to be killed. Hamlet changes the orders to have them killed ... by editing a text file on a laptop. Just who are these people in England, that Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are executed on that basis? If it was Mob connections, that aspect could have been explored further.
But this is a modern Hamlet, one who ponders life and death while wandering through a New York video store at 4am, wearing a silly woollen hat, with a gun in his pocket. Had the film been made a few years later, he would be keeping a blog, the dust from the World Trade Center would be everywhere, Claudius would watch Hamlet's accusatory video montage on YouTube, instead of in an art house cinema.