Coriolanus (2011)

This film, based on one of WIlliam Shakespeares lesser known plays (of the same name) is a very ambitious ‘passion’ project brought to the screen by Voldemort himself, Ralph Fiennes. As in ‘Fiennes stars, produces and makes this his directorial debut’. The result is impressive. Set in ‘A Place Calling Itself Rome’, the flick follows the proud rise and subsequent tragic fall of a highly decorated and renowned General Gaius Martius Coriolanus as ‘the people’ turn on him over a ‘slight’ to custom, resulting in his banishment from the city and estrangement from his loving but misunderstanding family. In his lonely travels, he seeks out his nemesis Tullus Aufidius, played with charismatic vigor by Gerald Butler. Aufidius is a rebel military leader from the neighboring region intent on taking the fight to the ‘Romans’. Coriolanus ‘makes his play’ and aligns himself with his determined former enemies to make their fight his fight, in order to quench his thirst for revenge against the city that ruined him. As with all faithful Shakespearian adaptations, the dialogue is, at times, near impenetrable and slightly annoying (to me, anyway). However, Fiennes decision to set the story in modern times, against a familiar backdrop of (seemingly) Eastern European civil war, helped lay bare the intent and meaning of the words and actions. Some serious money was put on screen with some epic displays of urban combat and military regalia on hand, not to mention a stellar cast. Two ‘stand-outs’ were the reliable Brian Cox as a Coriolanus-allied senator and a wonderful Vanessa Redgrave as the Generals tough-as-nails mother. Everybody else in the cast ‘steps up to plate’ also but none more so than Ralph (pronounced Rafe, BTW) Fiennes himself. As the seemingly cursed (or supremely unlucky) General, he chews into the scenes with a fiery vengeance, fully immersing himself in the characters warrior ‘code’ and anguished bewilderment. His deftness with the Shakespearian manner of speech is damned impressive, as he growlingly emotes his way through long, unbroken sequences and exchanges. As cool as Fiennes’ handling of the material and dialogue may be though, that may also be where this movie could lose a chunk of its potential audience. Shakespeare simply isn’t for everyone… hell, I’m a discerning film junkie and I’ll admit to it grating on my nerves at times. However, if you enjoyed Baz Luhrmanns 1996 Romeo and Juliet due, at least in part, to its ‘modern’ trappings, then Coriolanus may work for you. But instead of cross-dressing musical numbers and pretty people, you’ll get some intense ‘Black Hawk Down’-like military action and bloody vicious knife fights. Personally, I think it’s worth seeing just to take in a fantastic thespians lofty and capable vision both behind AND in front of the camera. The man is clearly a well-rounded and talented individual and I’m very curious to see what he directs next. Maybe you’ll feel the same.


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