The Tempest (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner04/03/2011

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 110 mins

Disappointing, painfully dull Shakespearean adaptation that has a striking setting and a handful of good moments but is ultimately let down by uneven performances, poor pacing and some truly atrocious special effects.

What's it all about?
Adapted from the play and directed by Julie Taymor, The Tempest stars Helen Mirren as Prospera (the gender change is the only significant deviation from the original), a sorceress who was usurped by her brother Antonio (Chris Cooper) and marooned on a deserted island with her four year-old daughter Miranda. Twelve years later, Prospera conjures up a shipwreck that brings her tormentors – King Alonso (David Strathairn), the King's brother Sebastian (Alan Cumming), Antonio and garrulous Gonzalo (Tom Conti) – to her island home, where she plots revenge with the help of her sprite Ariel (Ben Whishaw).

Meanwhile, the King's son Ferdinand (Reeve Carney) is separated from the group and falls in love with Miranda (Felicity Jones), who's now sixteen. At the same time, jester Trinculo (Russell Brand) and drunkard Stephano encounter slave creature Caliban (Djimon Hounsou), who plans to use them to get rid of Prospera.

The Good
Julie Taymor is renowned for her visual style but she's a little off her game this time round, though Sandy Powell's strikingly unusual costume designs (apparently jackets made of zips are all the rage) duly earned the film an Oscar nomination. Similarly, the Hawaiian island locations are genuinely stunning (wags have already dubbed this “Shakespeare's LOST”), if curiously under-used.

The performances are something of a mixed bag: Mirren is solid, but seems to be holding back and doesn't really commit to the role; Brand and Molina are both excellent but you know you're in trouble when Russell Brand is the best thing in a Shakespeare film; Carney is a blank-faced pretty-boy with no discernible acting ability so there's zero chemistry between him and Jones; Hounsou overdoes it as Caliban with rather embarrassing results and Whishaw is flat-out terrible as Ariel. That said, Jones is excellent as Miranda (she's also never looked more beautiful on screen) and manages to generate at least a modicum of chemistry with Mirren if not with Carney.

The Bad
The film's biggest problem is the pacing, which slows the narrative to a crawl and continually spends too long with each group; consequently the story never really comes to life. It's also saddled with some horrifically awful digital effects sequences (although the flaming hell hounds are good) that are so disastrous that they instantly take you out of the film.

Worth seeing?
Despite one or two good moments, The Tempest is ultimately a disappointing Shakespearean adaptation that never really comes to life.

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The Tempest (PG)
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Content updated: 23/04/2019 19:03

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