In Franco Zeffirelli's screen interpretation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Mel Gibson does a fine job portraying the quick and intense emotions that throttle through the mind and body of this melancholy Dane. The director who gave us the inimitable 1968 rendition of Romeo and Juliet and the heated-up interpretation of The Taming of the Shrew has fashioned a lean and focused tale of revenge with Oedipal shadings.
Gibson makes the most of Hamlet's physical agility, playfulness, disgust, and rage. In his eyes we read the surge of different feelings that move through this grieving son as he reflects upon the revelations of his dead father's ghost (Paul Scofield), nurses a revulsion towards the murderous deed of his uncle (Alan Bates), and determines to drive away the love of Ophelia (Helena Bonham-Carter). Glenn Close's Gertrude stands out in Zeffirelli's interpretation of Shakespeare's primal drama as a woman whose libidinal desires extend wide and far. This becomes clear in her encounter with Hamlet after he dispatches Polonius (Ian Holm) in her bedroom.
Mel Gibson's daring leap from Lethal Weapon to Hamlet is credible. The film's climactic dueling scene in which he and Laertes (Nathaniel Parker) square off against each other is totally convincing. As a messenger of destruction, Mel Gibson has few screen equals.