Friday, 13 January 2012

The Tempest (BluRay/DVD Combo Review)

DVD/BluRay review of The Tempest from director Julie Taymor starring Helen Mirren
Image Courtesy of Alliance Films
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Dir: Julie Taymor (Titus, Across the Universe)
Cast: Helen Mirren, Russell Brand, Reeve Carney, Tom Conti, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, Djimon Hounsou, Felicity Jones, Alfred Molina, David Strathairn, Ben Whishaw
USA, 2010

Reason to see: I read the book as a part of my 2010 Book to Film Challenge and was one my Most Anticipated Films of 2010 Part 2 although it didn't come out the end of year blitz of films.

I've been looking forward to seeing The Tempest for a long time. In fact, when I look back it's actually just about 2 years now since I included in my 2010 Book to Film Challenge (which was pre-Book to Film Club! That feels like ages ago!) and it also landed on my Mid-Year Additions for Most Anticipated Films of 2010. The pull to the film is an easy draw as Julie Taymor directed, and I have loved her previous work including another Shakespearean adaptation of Titus. Her work always has an intense artistic flair that permeates every level of the films and integrates the story and character on a deeper level, which is what I was hoping for yet again with The Tempest.

I admit that I only grasped the bare bones of the story from reading the play, coming away with shipwreck and father/daughter on an island. The film switches up that dynamic an gives us Prospera (Helen Mirren) as the mother to Miranda (Felicity Jones), which is a welcome change as otherwise the story's only female character is Miranda. I actually quite loved Helen Mirren as Prospera, she was powerful, dynamic, cunning and magical. There is a wonderfully fantastical world that's created and whether or not you'd call it supernatural or fantasy is hard to pinpoint but I felt it resonated most with alchemy and transformation of energy and actual physicality. It crops up in the character of Caliban (Djimon Hounsou), whom I actually loved what they did with his look, with literally looked like he was in or had metaphorphosized which is even more impressive when you consider he's a very tricky literary role.

With the limited location of an island and a magical feel with a stellar cast I thought it would be a sure fire win to love The Tempest. Sadly, that wasn't the case and mostly due to unevenness on several fonts, one being tonally. There were some shifts of tone in conversations that I literally was shocked at, but I can be pretty forgiving about that and there really were only a few. But the more challenging thing though was the different levels that actors could handle the dialogue and it was very unbalanced. Some of the choices felt straight up out of place, like Russell Brand whom I'm actually quite fond of but feels like a caricature here and other actors I just couldn't understand the conversations they were having. That made it tough to love, especially since I only had a sketchy understanding of the story going in. On the flipside there are several brilliant performance including the wonderful Helen Mirren (Red (2010), Brighton Rock, Love Ranch) who purely commands as Prospera. Also flexing their acting muscles here is the amazing and ever-charming Alan Cummings and who really hit it our of the park for me was David Strathairn whom I've loved in everything I've seen him in from My Blueberry Nights to 'Alphas' but there was a wonderful even ease in his performance here, a confidence to not over act that impressed me to no end.

The Tempest has truly gorgeous visuals and wonderful design, and even though I was really rooting for the film I have to admit I was disappointed. Although I did feel that I got a lot of enjoyment from the beauty and artistry of the film, I was expecting and hoping for more. If you are looking for something to wow the senses, and you can put aside the unevenness, than I would definitely recommend checking it out.

DVD Extras:
  • Feature Commentary with Julie Taymor, Annotated Shakespeare - View The Tempest with audio commentary by Shakespeare experts Virginia Vaughn & Jonathan Bate, Raising The Tempest - Julie Taymor documentary about the making of the movie, "O Mistress Mine" Music Video, Russell BRand Rehearsal Riff
BluRay Only Extras:
  • Los Angeles Rehearsal with Julie Taymor, Djimon Hounsou, Russel Brand & Alfred Molina

The Tempest is available on DVD as of January 10, 2012. Check it out over at &

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I'd recommend it to fans of visually stunning films who don't mind a little unevenness

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© Shannon Ridler, 2012

Prospera played by Helen Mirren in the TEMPEST. Photo credit Melinda Sue Gordon

Prospera (Helen Mirren), Miranda (Felicity Jones) and Caliban (Djimon Hounsou) in THE TEMPEST. Photo credit Melinda Sue Gordon

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