For most folks, if Shakespeare didn't write those plays, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Nor does it seem a likely topic for Roland Emmerich, whose films usually are about the end of the world. Nonetheless, this period drama turns an academic dispute into absurd entertainment. Even if you know your Elizabethans, you might be baffled by the first hour, in which soldiers chase Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto) as he flees with the Bard's manuscripts and the film flashes back to when the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) — who secretly wrote the plays but now, in order to promote the Earl of Essex (Sam Reid) as successor to Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave), wants to stage them to rouse public support — is looking for someone to pose as the author. And so, Shakespeare (Rafe Spall), who, though illiterate, is the film's most amusing character. Adding to the confusion, everyone looks alike, and, as a Sophoclean twist reveals, for good reason.