Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
Run Time: 2 hours 2 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain
Directed by Ralph Fiennes (directorial debut)
Coriolanus is the rare Shakespearean film adaptation that doesn't star Kenneth Branagh. Directed by Lord Voldemort himself, it is a tale of triumph, revenge, and betrayal, and one of the best Shakespearean films in recent memory.
The trouble with Shakespeare has always been accessibility to the layman, who can't seem to grasp the unique rhythmic language. I sadly protest those who would avoid a film simply because of this language, for the same reasons that I would protest somebody avoiding a film because it is sub-titled or in black and white. If you can give it a chance, you will not be disappointed.
That being said, director Ralph Fiennes does try to bridge the gap to a modern audience by updating the tale of Coriolanus into modern times. All of the original Shakespearean language is preserved, but wars in this movie are fought with tanks and machine guns.
Coriolanus, played by Fiennes, is a courageous war general who is all business. He fights ferociously, but has a PR problem in that he doesn't connect well with the average citizen. Nor does he aspire to. This contemptuous attitude costs him a political seat of power, and slowly the masses turn on the accomplished war-hero. He is exiled. In shame and rage, he surrenders himself to his sworn enemy and captain of the rival army, Aufidus, played by Gerard Butler. Impressed by his courage, Aufidus does not kill Coriolanus, but instead teams with him to unload his vengeance upon his former city. The two former enemies unite and invade.
Vanessa Redgrave gives a magnificent performance as Coriolanus' mother, who once urged her son for political gain and later finds herself begging for his mercy. It must be a new SAG rule that Jessica Chastain appear in every third film, and she is in this one, as Coriolanus' estranged wife. Both breathe life into their thin characters.
Coriolanus progresses with loud explosions, bloody-messy battle sequences, and intensely-cut action. Ralph Fiennes shows promise behind the camera as he has already solidified his ability in front of it.
Perhaps not being as well-known as Hamlet or Romeo & Juliet, Coriolanus seemed fresh yet infused with the historical authenticity of a Shakespearean classic. If you let the words permeate, Coriolanus is an enthralling adventure. Even if you can't wrap your head around the dialogue, this is one Shakespeare movie where you still should be able to find your bearings, as its actions speak nearly as loud as its words.
Opens locally Friday, March 9th, 2012
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