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A great concept falls a little flat...
on April 3, 2007
I had long wanted to see this adaption of one of my favorite plays, intriguingly set in World War I Britain, and thought it would be the perfect way to introduce a friend of mine to Shakespeare. The film begins with great promise, with an exciting opening sequence showing the end of the War of Roses and Henry VI and a thrilling take on Richard's opening monologue. Within thirty minutes, however, the film begins to drag and lacks any driving action throughout. While individual scenes feature stand out performances and excellent use of the language (the immortal Sir Ian shines, of course, as a true master of his art), there are often long breaks between scenes and long periods without dialogue. Just like on the stage, long silences in Shakespeare tend to make the whole thing fall flat and the audience (me, in this case) begins to find it all a bit tedious by Act 4. I tried to remain hopeful, however, as the film seemed to be ramping up to a final showdown, and I was eager to see Sir Ian's deliciously evil Richard get his just reward at last. The ending, when it finally arrives, is jarringly abrupt (cutting the last scene of Shakespeare's play entirely), and so bizarre and unsatisfying that I found myself watching the credits in disbelief.
In general, an example of project with high quality individual elements (a solid cast, a fairly good cutting of the text until the end, and a fascinating concept and setting) that just weren't combined skillfully enough to make the film rise above the level of mediocrity. Those with a love of the play and of Shakespeare in general will find much of it interesting, but, as I discovered, it is not a good choice of a film to win over the Shakespeare disinclined among us.