- Running time:
- 109 minutes
- Helen Mirren -
- Felicity Jones -
- Djimon Hounsou -
- Ben Whishaw -
- Reeve Carney -
- Prince Ferdinand
Powerful sorceress Prospera (Helen Mirren) causes a shipwreck that brings her traitorous brother (Chris Cooper) and political rival (David Strathairn) to the island where she’s been living in exile with her daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones). Prospera uses the devoted spirit Ariel (Ben Whishaw) to lure the castaways closer to her, while her vengeful slave Caliban (Djimon Hounsou) causes his own chaos with fools Trinculo (Russell Brand) and Stephano (Alfred Molina).
The buzz: Julie Taymor’s reputation as a visionary artist spans stage (“The Lion King”) and screen (“Frida,” “Across the Universe”), and now she’s adapting Shakespeare for the first time since her 1999 film debut “Titus.” But it’s been a rough season for Taymor. “The Tempest” was blasted by critics when it screened at the Venice and New York film festivals and now limps into theaters just as her troubled “Spider-Man” musical gets off to a shaky start on Broadway.
The verdict: Where “Titus” felt tenacious and unique, “The Tempest” simply feels compromised and familiar. Taymor’s visual trickery is old-hat by now, resulting in an ambitious film that’s never quite bold or delirious enough to genuinely surprise. Even the casting of Mirren in one of Shakespeare’s iconic male leads fails to deliver on the intended rebellious excitement. The powerful actress is at ease with the verse and visually striking in Sandy Powell’s punky costumes, but she often recedes into the background instead of dominating the action, and leaves no lasting impression. Hounsou, Brand and Molina fare best with the liveliest characters, but their largely comic relief subplot is meant to enhance not highlight the action. Pity poor Whishaw, whose disconnected green screen work joins Julia Roberts’ Tinkerbell in “Hook” as one of the screen’s least successful marriages of technology and performance. In the end no amount of gimmicky effects, splendid Hawaiian locations, bombastic music or high-caliber actors can distract from how consistently dull this “Tempest” is. It’s the sort of folly only a filmmaker with vision can create.
Did you know? Instead of having Mirren deliver Prospero’s famous epilogue speech to the camera, Taymor opted to turn it into a song performed over the closing credits by Portishead’s Beth Gibbons.
Movie theaters and showtimes for The Tempest in New York.
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