Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Long regarded as one of the most complex, and least accessible of Shakespeare's plays, 'Coriolanus' makes its way to the screen as an intense, slam-bang action movie that marks Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut. The film is set in "a place calling itself Rome" (but shot against the stark landscape of Belgrade and the Serbian countryside), with Fiennes himself taking the role of ruthless killing machine Caius Martius, a proud warrior-general committed to honor and duty and courage, but let down by his arrogance and his contempt for the common people.
When he vanquishes the army of his sworn enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler), he's anointed 'Coriolanus' and is encouraged to run for political office by his ambitious mother Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave). But he resists, refusing to pander to the public whose votes he must seek. Irked by his refusal to play by the rules, and his inability to connect with the citizens, 'Coriolanus' is banished from the very land he helped protect. Now consumed with revenge, he seeks out his old enemy Tullus and offers to lead an attack on his old home.
Cleverly transported to contemporary times, employing such tricks as cellphone-shot assassinations, 24 x 7 news updates, and rousing political debates on television, 'Coriolanus' is surprisingly relevant even 400-odd years after it was written. The story draws some easy parallels with the modern world, despite the somewhat challenging use of original Shakespearean dialogue.
Even if the language is hard to navigate occasionally, the film is worth a watch solely for its performances. Vanessa Redgrave in particular, is riveting as 'Coriolanus'' autocratic mother, and Fiennes himself brings such intimidating physicality to the central role.
The film's intense, blood-splattered action scenes are not for the faint-hearted, but this is a solid, impressive piece of work that deserves your time. I'm going with three out of five for 'Coriolanus'. Get into the mood and settle down for a satisfying watch.
Rating: 3 / 5
What's your reaction to 'Coriolanus'?