Review: Coriolanus

Total War: Rome – Modern Warfare Edition…

Filming any of The Bard’s tales has always been a tricky task for any accomplished director, but for first timer Ralph Fiennes, taking on one of Shakespeare’s lesser known and difficult works is like fighting the force of the Tiber itself.

Shakespeare’s work has been plucked with varying degrees of success for many a year now, often failing in clumsy interpretations, and in most modern adaptations, the clear desire to make the syntax trendy and current.

But in this Roman tragedy, Fiennes has pulled off the neat trick of setting ancient Rome’s battle with the rebel Volscian Army in Modern Warfare style action with some of the best delivery of old Bill’s dialogue yet.

It’s a fine balance that pays off, indebted to the passion of Fiennes to do justice to the great work and no shortage of dynamic direction when bringing Coriolanus’ urban combat to life.

It’s a faithful, assured interpretation that most successfully puts the age old language ahead of any modern day gimmickry, feeling authentic rather than indulgent.

In Fiennes’ own lead turn as the legendary general, a clear passion for the writings pierces through dragon like eyes (or should I say Snake) and sharpened teeth. It’s a brilliant, snarling performance perhaps justifying the great city’s plebs not to take Rome’s greatest son to their bosom.

And it’s with Rome’s populous and scheming tribunes that Coriolanus’ greatest battle is fought, revisiting the since repeated story of a great warrior turned unsuccessful politician after glorious battlefield victory.

The new consul’s disdain for the lower classes enjoying freedom unearned, bringing about a class war that’s just as relevant today, as electioneering  takes to the streets to win popular rule support, a notion that betrays all his instincts of allowing the unheralded power over patricians.

A resulting TV debate sees Fiennes finally rip into already disquieting plebs, perceived as traitorous bringing about banishment; it’s a pure acting tour de force as Coriolanus begins his long road to vengeance.

Thespian support is quality too, with Gerald Butler’s opposing general, Aufidius chewing through reams of rich dialogue, but greatest of all is Vanessa Redgrave as counselling mother Volumnia whose brilliant turn elevates Coriolanus in its most pivotal and emotional act as mother, wife and son kneel for pity.

Stalling in parts with many acts languishing, Fiennes still keeps the naturally fragmented play coherent. Coriolanus’ bleak narrative never gives way to flamboyancy, as Fiennes grainy capturing of a place that calls itself Rome attunes perfectly to what is one of Shakespeare’s singularly tragic plays.

With previous attempts at Shakespeare leaving the feeling of “oh look I have just reinvented Shakespeare” putting me off many of the movie retellings, Fiennes’ emotional, unshowy reworking has brought a new found faith in making the old modern and relevant.

(LoveFilm by post)

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13 responses to “Review: Coriolanus

  1. I Loved This Flick, Fo SHO!
    Anything RALPH FIENNES Does, I’m Game To Watch.
    I’ve Been A Fan Of His Since “SCHINDLER’S LIST” And I Haven’t Looked Back Since!!!
    Excellent Post!

    • …and it only took me an hour! Glad you like the review and the movie Mark. TBH this is one of the few Shakespeare i have enjoyed on film. Love the story, and normally i wince at the syntax in movies, but here it grabbed me and thoroughly liked it.

  2. The cast is what really makes this flick so damn invigorating and special, and I can’t wait to see what else Fiennes has in-store for us as a director. Good review.

    • good call, it’s very promising indeed. great cast. loved Redgrave. as commented here elsewhere, i was pleasantly surprised by how much i enjoyed it after long being a Shakespeare movie skeptic.

    • I see your point, I was exactly that way too until i watched, dunno why but something clicked with this after years of feeling just like you about Shakespearean dialogue in film, you either love it or you hate, i get that. I Gave this one a chance and it paid of for me, but totally get were you are coming from. good point made hipster.

  3. Great review! I quite like this one despite its bloody scenes (I’m not much for that kind of thing). A great directorial debut from Fiennes and what a cast! I agree Redgrave is superb, as is Brian Cox. I also like Butler’s as Aufidius, it proves that he COULD act if the material calls for it. I just hope he continues to seek out roles like this in the future.

    • Thanks Ruth, this was one actually on Reddit i got some stick for I was accused of cheer leading the movie – Indeed, but I took it on the chin. Butler always seems to do better in roles of magnitude and he is quite traditional, and certainly has presence which is vital for this. I think he is an absolute dude and I think you call it right that if he seek these types of roles out he will increase his standing. In 300, no matter how pulp the movie may have been, it was a superb performance by him I always thought.Thanks again 😉

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