unfortunately, the Fascist-era background was held back to nothing more than sets and costumes, drown in the need of putting Shakespeare words into it. Also, although as pleasant as Ian McKellen was, but Richard III's famous paranoia was not depicted enough in this.
This version of "Richard III" cleverly grasps the precedent of fascism in Shakespeare's play; the crazy contingent chances taken by despots to gain power, and the emergence of an Early Modern citizenry in the radio age ready to be exploited by the undeniable charisma of demagoguery. But above all, Loncraine and McKellen grasp the fundamental psychological insecurity behind that demagogic power.
Playing Richard of Gloucester is very, very high on my bucket list. When I need to remind myself why that is, I watch this nasty, subversive blast of a film. A powerful performance, and an impeccably mounted production. A palpable sense of time and place eludes many cinematic adaptations of The Bard's work; one of the many reasons Loncraine's opus stands tall above the rest.
OK, mainly, some fine performances. McKellen mugs a bit too much, and some silly gimmickry (delivering a major monologue standing at a urinal, for example). The best performances are the least showy, as Maggie Smith wipes up the screen with McKellen when she gives him a chewing out that would have demolished Dick Cheney. McKellen's Richard is severly diminished after that, and he never really recovers.