I think Shakespeare adaptations that alter the setting in an ostentatious way so as to call attention to it often are more gimmicky than clever. But this version of “Richard III”, setting the story in an alternative-universe fascist-styled 1930s Britain, does so both deliberately but also quietly.
It doesn’t call undue attention to itself, but the worldbuilding is tantalising, and frames the story itself well. The text is always supreme here, which is what makes it all work. There’s no time to gawp at the sets or costumes or some such, it’s all in service to the story, rather than a creative choice for novelty’s sake.
A great cast, a lean script that’s careful with its cuts, lovely production values…nothing rewrites the book here, but it’s all a very prestige, quality adaptation. It’s not especially cinematic, but honestly, McKellen’s performance is the draw here above anything else. Strip away the 1930s setting, and the film really wouldn’t lose that much beyond a fun creative touch. I don’t find the film revolutionary as some, in that sense, but I certainly find it enjoyable. I give it three tanks, and a jazz record.