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Tempest, The


Stars: Helen Mirren, Ben Whishaw, Alfred Molina, Russell Brand, David Strathairn, Felicity Jones, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, Djimon Hounsou, Reeve Carney, Tom Conti

Director: Julie Taymor

It's Shakespeare, Jim, but perhaps not quite as we know it. For a start, the ruler of the magical isle on which most of the 16th century characters are shipwrecked has been changed from a man to a woman. Which is perhaps just as well, since Mirren, as the sorceress Prospera, is the strongest and most charismatic thing in the film.

Once head honcha in Milan, she was exiled along with her infant daughter through the treachery of her brothers (Cooper, Cumming), but found sanctuary on her island, blending a knowledge of sorcery and science to become its master. Now the daughter (Jones) is 15 or so and the action of the title - wrought by Prospera - wrecks a ship off her shores.

This is hardly the most magnetic of the Bard's plays, but director Taymor does her best to hold our attention with stunning production design and a few eye-catching special effects, as Prospera's spirit aide Ariel (Whishaw) helps her magic. For all that, though, the narrative drags.

The lovers (Jones, Carney) are vapid, although that's Shakespeare's fault as much as the actors, the invaders, all from Prospera's previous life in Italy, are never quite interesting enough and the comic characters (Hounsou, Molina, Brand) not funny enough, and vaguely irritating. Brand, in particular, as Trinculo, just plays Brand. The closing credits have been described as 'the most beautiful ever made', but unfortunately the preview theatre blacked most of them out.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2010. UK Distributor: Walt Disney. Colour by deluxe.
110 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 02 Mar 2011