Movie Review: The Tempest (2011)

| 28 April , 2011 | Reply

Keeva Stratton, Quip Creative

Directed By: Julie Taymor
Starring: Helen Mirren, David Strathairn, Chris Cooper, Allan Cumming, Russell Brand

In a fresh attempt at one of Shakespeare\’s lesser known or minor plays, The Tempest is reincarnated through a different and slightly unusual combination–modern music, exceptional cinematography, a fragmented narrative, and an inconsistent range of performances. At times brilliant and at others banal–this mixed bag is a patchy offering, best served to the devout filmgoer or Shakespeare fan.

In a twist that succeeds, the male sorcerer Prospero is transformed into the betrayed mother Prospera (Mirren), whose thirst for vengeance drives her, and whose love of her daughter weakens her. Mirren\’s performance demands your attention and is a true highlight of the piece. Having been cast out from her native Venice by her brother, the sorceress Prospera seeks to enact her revenge when her brother and a ship full of royals sails into her stormy waters, and are ultimately shipwrecked on her island. As they contend with their stranded situation, Prospera is also–unbeknownst to them– using her magic to cause even more chaos.

Every cinematic presentation of Shakespeare has paled in comparison to Roman Polanski\’s 1971 Macbeth, whose gothic strength and gritty performances brought Shakespeare\’s creative talents to the screen in full light. Entering the cinema, I felt that if ever a film would match it, the combination of Helen Mirren, Chris Cooper, and Allan Cumming certainly had the acting strength to do so. And at times the cinematography, slightly unsettling as it was, showed real promise. But ultimately, and sadly, the film\’s lack of consistency and flow brought about its undoing.

Perhaps most perplexing was the addition of Russell Brand, who (while many of his fans may disagree) in my opinion lacks the presence or ability to match either Shakespeare\’s lines or his fellow cast members\’ talents. His performance serves only to annoy and detract from the often witty repartee offered in generous, and well heeled, amounts by his scene sharers, Alfred Molina and Djimon Hounsou. I think Brand is well suited to being an offbeat comedic foil, but where a role demands strength and actual acting ability, he should be avoided.

The Tempest will likely be remembered, if indeed it is, as a missed opportunity. It had all the right ingredients yet failed to dish up the necessary enthrallment. If you can spare a couple of hours, there are many highlights amidst the lowlights, but as an overall experience, it perhaps requires more commitment than most will be willing to give.

The Tempest is in cinemas now.

Keeva

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