Hamlet might have well have been called Laurence Olivier's Hamlet: he produced it, directed it, starred in it, and condensed it down to a trim 153 minutes. Olivier's hatchet is sharp -- by comparison, the Kenneth Branagh version of the full play runs 242 minutes -- but so is his sense of good storytelling. He is perhaps more brooding and less action that many Hamlets. Nonetheless, he was for the generation that followed him the standard for acting to which others aspired. Good acting distinguishes this production, though some of the performers are clearly too old or too young for the part that they play. The film rarely makes a break visually with its stagebound origins, an interesting bit of conservatism in a version that aggressively trims a good hour-and-a-half of running time out of Shakespeare's original. The tech credits for the film are competent, but this is an area of the film that has been overshadowed by later versions, in which directors have taken more distinctive views of the material.
by Richard Gilliam review