Films | Movie Reviews | Coriolanus: Movie Review

Coriolanus: Movie Review

Posted by FATEMA H.KAGALWALA on January 20, 2012 | No Comments

PRODUCER – Ralph Fiennes, Gabrielle Tana, Julia Taylor-Stanley, Colin Vaines
DIRECTOR – Ralph Fiennes
WRITER – John Logan based on William Shakespeare’s play ‘Coriolanus’.
CAST – Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain
MUSIC – Ilan Eshkeri

When the film opens we see a tattooed hand sharpening a somewhat historic-looking knife. Soon, this visual gives way to footage of modern-day warfare and bloodshed. We know then, that Shakespeare’s tragic saga of the Roman leader Coriolanus is to be viewed in the 21st century setting.

Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes), the protagonist is at war and fights his arch-enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) in a valiant hand-to-hand combat. In minutes we know this is a ferocious General with an unbridled temperament. But it is when he gets back home that the real drama begins. His superiors and his mother Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave) persuade him to take up political office as a mark of recognition for his military accolades. He wins the support of the Roman Senate but a mutiny stirred up by Brutus and Sicinius turns the public against him. Egged by his passionate, irreverent and volatile disposition Coriolanus completely alienates them attracting an exile for himself. He leaves Rome in anger and joins forces with Aufidius to besiege Rome for revenge. Like a true Shakespearean tragic hero, he begins paving way for his own fall.

The film remains completely loyal to Shakespeare’s plot which in turn is based on historic turn of events. In adapting it to contemporary times Ralph Fiennes plays with setting but retains the dialogue and politics of yore. He also retains Shakespeare’s original vision of his characters and redraws them with a sparkling honesty. He shows Coriolanus for the impulsive and explosive valiant leader he is and Ralph Fiennes plays it with vigour and passion. However, he plays it uni-dimensional, unable to go deeper into the skin of the tragic hero and bring into play the various shades of good and bad that mark all of Shakespeare’s tragedy kings. Fiennes captures the mother-son relationship of Volumnia and Coriolanus with the same insight as Shakespeare, defining with discernment the almost possessive sense of ownership she displays, also alienating and disconcerting Coriolanus’ wife. Vanessa Redgrave owns the matriarch with a towering presence and conviction dwarfing Fiennes’ Coriolanus both by her stature and strength of character. But then that is exactly the sub-text of their relationship. Jessica Chastain as the fragile wife makes the perfect foil for the over-bearing mother and aggressive son with her intuitive performance.

Among the secondary characters Gerard Butler and Brian Cox put in dependable performances but it is Paul Jesson as Brutus and James Nesbitt as Sicinius who draw eyeballs by bringing out the vile corruption and squirming under-handed evil with ease.

The entire cast transforms the bombastic Shakespearean verse and prose into dramatic conversation. It is the ‘feeling’ more than usual eloquence with which his lines are generally enacted that contributes to the drama coming alive. However, it makes the film inaccessible but powerful nonetheless.


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