Othello (Oliver Parker)

Rating: 2.5

A surprisingly tepid adaptation of Shakespeare's play; despite the 
presence of such talented actors as Laurence Fishburne, Irene Jacob, and 
Kenneth "four down, thirty-three to go" [that includes his upcoming 
HAMLET] Branagh, it never really comes alive.  Might it have something to 
do with the fact that only 30% or so of Shakespeare's words remain, by 
Parker's own admission?  I should confess at once that I know the play 
very well, and thus spent much of the film muttering "I can't believe 
they cut that" under my breath; I can't say whether those with no prior 
familiarity with the text would be enthralled or no.  (Sorry, seeing 
Shakespeare in any form always inspires my latent Archaic Grammar 
Inclination.)  Iago, in particular, suffers from the excisions, which, 
combined with an intolerable amount of mugging on Branagh's part (he 
can't decide whether he's playing Iago or Alfie), reduce him from one of 
literature's most intriguing and complex villains to a generic Evil Dude 
With a Grudge.  Even a mediocre rendition of such a great work is bound 
to have a few moving moments, and this one has more than a few, but it 
pales in comparison with Branagh's own adaptations (especially HENRY V).  
Fishburne is capable in the title role; Jacob less so as Desdemona (not, 
it should be noted, among Shakespeare's greatest female roles).