Coriolanus is a powerful and relevant re-telling of Shakespeare’s tragedy of the same name. The film’s protagonist, Caius Martius, loathes the common people of Rome but goes to great personal lengths to triumph over Rome’s enemies, the Volscians, led by Tullus Aufidious. In reward he is given the name Coriolanus and put forward for Consulate. Pride, however, is this tragic heroes downfall. Coriolanus fails to demonstrate public humility by refusing to reveal his war wounds to the common people as is dictated by the city’s customs. This results in his exile and ultimate desire for revenge.
Set in the modern day and filmed in Serbia, Coriolanus is visually compelling. Barry Ackroyd (of Hurt Locker) brings his experience of filming modern warfare with superb results, including powerful images of Coriolanus as he emerges from battle dripping in blood.
Coriolanus is an outstanding directorial debut by Ralph Fiennes who also plays the leading role of Caius Martius Coriolanus with finesse. Fiennes’ Coriolanus is a reserved and proud character who is too much his own man, but Fiennes plays him just on the right side of arrogant to enable the audience to retain sympathy. Neither does Fiennes leave the audience in any doubt of the internal struggle Coriolanus faces during the threat and eventuality of his exile.
As its trailer suggests, the film is surprisingly easy to follow, even for those who are not familiar with the play. Long soliloques by the tragic hero, typically associated with Shakespeare’s work and often difficult to translate to the big screen, do not have a place in Coriolanus. The meaning of the dialogue is conveyed beautifully by the accomplished cast. Vanessa Redgrave is particularly stunning in the role of Coriolanus’ mother, portraying an almost manipulative control over Coriolanus during both his triumph and downfall.
Coriolanus is an intense film, but it is not without lighter moments. News reels help to navigate the audience through the story and inject a degree of humour in the appearance of news presenter John Snow.
One of the best Shakespeare adaptations in recent years, Coriolanus is impressive and accessible to all.
VERDICT: ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪& 1/2
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