Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Lubna Azabal
Directed by Ralph Fiennes
In his directorial debut, Ralph Fiennes transforms Shakespeare's brutal tragedy into a bold, bloody and intelligent story that demands everything of its audience.
The film tells the tragic rise and fall of a revered Roman General, Caius Martius, also known as "Coriolanus" (Fiennes). Pushed by his over ambitious mother (Redgrave) to take the commanding position of Consul, Coriolanus is forced to speak to the public to secure their vote, an act he finds unnecessary and degrading.
The masses refuse to support Coriolanus, prompting his fury, which leads to several violent riots and, eventually, his own banishment from Rome.
Coriolanus's severe outrage and hunger for revenge lead him to join the army of his sworn enemy, Tullus Aufidius (Butler), and seek vengeance against Rome.
Packed with intense political relevance, Coriolanus manages to combine Shakespeare and the power of the Elizabethan language with a world of modern warfare. At times it feels you are watching a game of Call Of Duty while someone stands behind you loudly and aggressively reading Shakespeare.
The film opens with a news bulletin, as though the audience has just switched on the television, but, once the language and violence begins to flow it is clear Coriolanus is more than just a modern war blockbuster.
At times the language seems to clash with the modern day setting. The continuous roar of aggression distracts the audience from the power and beauty of the language, just as the language becomes overbearing at times.
The film is intellectually demanding throughout its entirety. It lacks any comic relief or endearing characters and, throughout the first hour, you begin to wish Fiennes had just stuck to acting. However, the intensity of the second half makes the confusion and discomfort of the first half worthwhile.
As usual, Fiennes plays the disturbed hero/villain to perfection, but it is not only Fiennes's acting that is impeccable. Redgrave is perhaps even more compelling and convincing as Coriolanus's mother, and the chemistry between Fiennes and Butler is also disturbingly strong.
Coriolanus is not a film to watch for light brainless entertainment. It will leave you feeling shocked and uncertain about the last 122 minutes of your life. In the end, however, you end up walking away with something wonderfully unique and memorable, albeit bloody and shocking.
3 out of 5
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