Richard III

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Shakespeare’s writings have always been a steady source of material for Hollywood motion pictures, but usually these offerings fall short of the grandiose visions the writings call for. In order to capture the essence of Shakespeare’s work, you need excellent actors with a grasp of the material, as well as a dedicated and skilled production design team to bring the visual aspect into focus. To bring these elements together is no easy task, but when it happens, the pay off is wonderful, and although it rarely happens, this movie manages to achieve all those goals, in splendid form. Set in 1930s Britain, a brutal and bloody war has concluded between two warring royal families to establish a King, with King Edward (John Wood) ended up on the throne. No sooner has Edward taken his place as the new ruler, when his younger brother Richard (Ian McKellan) begins to enact a scheme to claim the throne for himself, no matter what the cost. No matter who must die, which enemies he must align with, or price must be paid, Richard will stop at nothing to realize his obsession and become King.

What makes this movie so rich and textured is the production design and costuming, which create a totally enveloping background for the events in the film. In fact, costume designer Shuna Harwood and production designer Tony Burrough were both nominated for Academy Awards, and they certainly deserved the gesture. The sets are complex and well crafted, filled with small details that enrich the visual tapestry of the film. With a grandiose concept such as this movie, a deep and multilayered visual backdrop, which the production design team made sure was present. The costumes also enrich the realistic visual texture of the atmosphere. While many Shakespeare films are considered by the masses to be long winded and dry, this movie moves at a brisk pace and features some good action scenes to keep you glued to the tube. This is not your average Shakespeare movie, that’s for sure. I recommend this movie to those seeking a finely crafted movie that combines excellent acting, terrific writing, and amazing visual scope. The disc would make a nice addition to anyone’s shelves as well.

As I mentioned, this movie moves a little differently than most Shakespeare flicks, but this has one thing in common with the others, and that’s a superb cast of talented actors. While the supporting cast is very good here, veteran thespian Ian McKellan is the main draw here, and he gives one of the finest performances of his storied career. McKellan (Gods And Monsters, Apt Pupil) is known for his tremendous skills in the realm of Shakespeare, and really turns in an amazing performance here, as well as a co-writing the screenplay. Other major roles are played by Annette Bening (The Siege, American Beauty), Robert Downey, Jr. (Chaplin, In Dreams), and Nigel Hawthorne (Demolition Man, Amistad). While these three give superb performances here, the performance of McKellan steals the show every time he shares the screen with them. The supporting cast includes Jim Broadbent (Princess Caraboo, The Avengers), Kristin Scott Thomas (Random Hearts, Mission: Impossible), John Wood (An Ideal Husband, Sabrina), Adrian Dunbar (The Crying Game, My Left Foot), and Maggie Smith (Sister Act 1-2, Hook).

Video: How does it look?

Richard III is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame version offered on the flip side of the disc. The colors are wonderful, and each hue is bright and full of color, with no bleeding or other errors at all. The flesh tones are natural, and no compression errors can be found, either. The lighting can be very low key in this movie, but the contrast stays solid through even the darkest of the scenes.

Audio: How does it sound?

While audio is not the main focus here, the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track ensures a full and rich audio experience. The score sound very full here, and is the most active element in the mix. The dialogue comes through well also, with volume consistency and no separation issues to deal with. There is some very atmospheric subtle surround use as well, that helps set the correct mood for the movie.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The disc includes the theatrical trailer, and the insert booklet contains some production notes.

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