It's been almost two decades since I've seen or read Shakespeare's Coriolanus, so it's difficult to remember how the film compares to the original material. What I can say is that I got more out of the film than I remember getting out of the play.
Ralph Fiennes's direction is flawless. In Coriolanus he creates a film first and a Shakespeare film second. With short scenes, long establishing shots, and pregnant pauses between conversations and monologues, Fiennes uses all the techniques germane to film and relies on the rich text when its most needed; his balance of film and Shakespeare's words is better than most other adaptations.
Fiennes's vision of Coriolanus fits our time and politics. Martius's open contempt of the proletariat contrasts with the successful patricians who, sharing his contempt, lie to the people to ingratiate themselves. Thus, Coriolanus becomes about how people in power manipulate the masses.
Fiennes gives a masterful performance, at times gritty and murderous and at other times vulnerable and weepy. Gerard Butler keeps up, and that's the best I can say while seasoned veteran Vanessa Redgrave hits her role out of the park as one of the most bad-ass Shakespearean mothers.
Overall, Coriolanus is a tour de force for Ralph Fiennes, a too-often underrated actor and director.
Decent Shakesperian based movie! Shakespeare's dramas may well be set up in a contemporary set, because the content is timeless. Here the screenplay drama is performed in its original text. The old lines sometimes are in conflict with the modern outfit, but you are quickly caught back to the drama by the violent intrigues and you become strongly affected by the deep conflicts between power and love. The war scenes are realistic and bloody. It is exciting and the outcome uncertain for the uninitiated. Ralph Fiennes both directs and plays the title role and succeeds well. He has got a star team both in front and behind the camera. The film photo by Barry Ackroyd is brilliant. The set and costumes are next to perfection. The 74-year-old Vanessa Redgrave portrays Coriolanus' mother, Volumnia, powerful and convincing. Gerard Butler as the rebel leader acts with strong charisma and realism. Additional casting is also very good. Coriolanus is a tense and violent political wartime thriller which makes Shakespeare not only accessible but utterly captivating. A credible directorial debut from one of the industry's finest working actors.
The citizens of Rome are hungry. Coriolanus, the hero of Rome, a great soldier and a man of inflexible self-belief despises the people. His extreme views ignite a mass riot. Rome is bloody. Manipulated and out-maneuvered by politicians and even his own mother Volumnia, Coriolanus is banished from Rome. He offers his life or his services to his sworn enemy Tullus Aufidius.
Well, those might not be the best reasons for seeing a movie, because it is shallow, but I don't care. I stuck to my guns, and finally saw it....and I'm glad I did.
Set in an alternate version of contemporary times, this is the story of a general named Caius Martius from a place that calls itself Rome who is simultaneously revered and feared. He finds himself at odds with his city and its people after his bid for a seat on the Consul backfires after he goes off on a tirade that insults the common people. There's more to it of course, with lots of manipulations, scheming, and political power plays, but essentially what happens is that Caius Martius,(who is given the title Coriolanus after he takes a city from his mortal enemy's territory) finds himself an exile of Rome, and is forced to join forces with his mortal enemy to get revenge on Rome.
The original work by Shakespeare might take place in Ancient Roman times, but the wonderful thing about the Bard is that his work, minus the specifics, is very timeless and can be relevant in basically any era. The movie is supposed to be in a contemporary alternate Rome, but it seemed more like Serbia and the military actions that took place there during the 1990s. Of course, that could just be from the fact that the movie was shot on location in Belgrade.
The setting and time are updated, but the original language is unchanged. This can be disorienting for people not used to the Elizabethan style, but it mostly works pretty well. Some of the dialogue does stick out and seem a tad out of place since the story is contemporized, but overall, this is a solid adaptation with some great themes concerning honor, revenge, and political machinations.
You could call this a war film, especially due to the first like 45 minutes, but in the end this is just a good old fashioned revenge story, and there's not a thing in the world wrong with that. Some of this is pretty gritty, bloody, and grim, but it is awesome. Some of the shaky cam during the action scenes is mildly annoying, and I'm not sure that it use was the best decision, but thankfully the editing keeps things from being completely unwatchable.
Fiennes does a great job in the lead role. He's intense, brooding, and when things get real, you can just tell some serious business is about to go down. I love Gerard Butler, and it's cool seeing him here as Coriolanus's sworn foe, but he's actually a little underwhelming here, and there's not as much of him as I was hoping for. He is decent though. Along with them, the film does have a solid supporting cast who all do really good jobs, especially Brian Cox, and most of all Vanessa Redgrave.
All in all, the play might be lesser Shakespeare (in terms of popularity and quality), but this is a stirring and gripping film. Definitely give it a chance. Fiennes is a little rusty as a director, but I think this could nevertheless be the great beginning for him as a man behind the camera.
I didn't really know of this play by a certain famous English playwrite but kinda got the impression it may have been pumped up with action and fighting for the modern era. The poster along with write ups saying the story had been updated tempted me greatly.
First thoughts of course are the two main leads played by Fiennes and Butler, surely this would have some kick assery involved? surely 'King Leonidas' would be storming around Rome screaming at folk
through his Scottish facial hair as he gunned them down in a hail of bullets and claret? well no.
This is in fact the full Shakespearean play (as far as I know) simply updated to modern times. So its modern day Rome with modern SWAT team-like soldiers for Fiennes whilst Butler leads an army of terrorist-like rebels against Rome, the media run amok in the middle. Some sections play out like real time media coverage but its mostly dialog between characters on sets/locations with the full verbal force of Williams writings.
There is no real added action or violence bar one sequence near the start, a bit of gun fire, a small grapple between Fiennes and Butler. Most of the story is hinted at through news coverage.
So Fiennes hasn't made this into a testosterone filled fight flick but stuck to the pure formula of Shakespeare. All that has been done is set the play within our present day with everything in the play updated to how we would see it. He could of done it the other way also and made a totally different film but keeping the essence ( eg.'Romeo + Juliet') which could of worked but respect to his decision.
Honestly this really wasn't my cup of tea, there is nothing wrong with the film, the acting is superb from all, it bewilders and amazes me they manage to learn the lines! Unless you know the play and follow the dialog you may find yourself lost haha the plot is relatively easy to follow but I had no clue what the characters were saying most of the time, its mainly guess work and body reactions I looked out for hehe.
Yep as I mentioned before its all the original bards writings and sayings throughout so get your Shakespearean to English dictionaries out folks. Fans of Shakespeare will enjoy I'm sure, how can you not enjoy Fiennes in full flow? personally I didn't like the modern day setting it just didn't look or feel right for me, ancient Rome will always look/feel better in my opinion. Also the old English Renaissance script is too much too swallow after about 10 minutes.
Solid stuff, cannot fault the acting skills involved to bring the play/story to life but I feel it serves more as an educational piece for students or lesson for bidding thespians. Without sounding too sacrilegious there is a good storyline here which could easily be made into a more 'fun' film for the masses, if you get me (Baz Luhrmann already proved this) but I digress again.
A well performed 'piece' if you will that will satisfy the right audience.
In a war ravished modern state calling itself Rome, where the people and the military have taken to the streets, hero General Caius Martius (Ralph Fiennes) is set to become the leader of the republic. Opponents across the political scale have other ideas though and attempt to orchestrate his downfall and banishment. Once exiled, the furious General forms an alliance with former nemesis Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) and returns home, intent on taking revenge on the city that has scorned him.
Despite the modern alternative setting that Fiennes chooses for his adaptation, he still manages to retain the feel of a play. Some scenes reflect a classic BBC dramatisation and he employs some high quality actors to provide the goods. The classically trained actress Vanessa Redgrave is the most comfortable amongst the ensemble as the influential matriarch Volumunia. She delivers her lines with absolute confidence and such an understanding of Shakespeare's iambic pentameter. She's not alone though; for as little time as they get, the ubiquitous Jessica Chastain delivers a reserved performance as Corialanus' disconsolate wife Virgilia and Gerard Butler proves that his talents lie beyond mere rom-com's and mindless action movies as Aufidius, the rebel leader of the Volscian army. Butler's fellow Scotsman Brian Cox also shows some real presence in one of his better roles of recent years as the Roman senator Menenius. But as the tortured and unrelenting protagonist Caius Martius Coriolanus, it's Fiennes that takes centre stage, chewing it up in the process and delivering an intense and ferocious performance. It's often forgotten how good an actor Fiennes really is but this is proof, once again, that given some meaty material, he can really sink his teeth into it. Shakespeare's works tend to be all about the prose and the performers and as much as this film delivers on that front, it also delivers an effective modern setting with surprisingly brilliant action set-pieces. There is a real intensity to the politics involved and Fiennes wisely chooses to stick with the original material. It's hard to balance Shakespeare's writing's in a contemporary way and for the most part, it works impressively. However, as the original play is based on a supposed Roman general during the 5th century BC, there are regular references to the common beliefs of this time. "The gods" is an often used piece of dialogue that doesn't quite fit with the chosen setting and whenever the actors deliver lines with such, it jars slightly. The rest of the film though, is a towering and mesmerising take on the machinations and intrigue of political power.
As always with Shakespeare, it takes a while to tune your ear but the visuals are so effective and the performances so good, that it brings one of his lesser known tragedies, comfortably, to a wider audience. It also heralds the arrival of exemplary actor Ralph Fiennes as an exemplary new director.
A banished hero of Rome allies with a sworn enemy to take his revenge on the city.
Shakespeare's tragedy, Coriolanus, directed by Ralph Fiennes, has been successfully translated to the screen, just as Richard III (1995) was by Richard Loncraine. Both productions shift the scene to modern times, and despite my prejudice about tinkering with the Bard, I liked both, in part because Fiennes is a fine Coriolanus and Ian McKellen a better than fine Richard. It's modern Rome, besieged by angry citizens whose leader is Gerard Butler's Aufidius, longtime enemy of Coriolanus. When the haughty, anti-commoner Coriolanus is banished from Rome, he joins up with his old enemy to turn on Rome.
It seems like a perfect alliance until Coriolanus's formidable mother, Volumnia, played by Vanessa Redgrave, and his wife, VIrgilia, played by Jessica Chastain, confront him. To see the four leads on the screen, along with the reliable Brian Cox as Menenius, is to witness the best of cinema acting, although Redgrave dominates as she pleads, cajoles, and finesses her son to speak gently to the commoners and to compromise the siege. There is something static about the filming, perhaps because Fiennes sees it in its Shakespearean form and himself as a theatrical performer. "Static" even though Fiennes relies on MTV-like quick cuts to enhance the action and perhaps mitigate the elegant prose for regular film goers.
The contemporary thematic parallels with the play are obvious: the puzzle that still is the Balkans, or Iraq and Iran for that matter, with families pitted against each other, the citizenry versus the military, and power another deal away. But the play's the thing, and no matter how much gifted director and adapter play with the original, Shakespeare is always there with stunning dialogue, deep characterization, and humanity still crazy after all these years.
Fiennes has organically transplanted the story in to the modern mass media world, and vaguely made a 'Rome' out of modern day Serbia and it feels right. The expositional and Greek chorus stuff is covered by talking CNN type heads instead of sentries and townspeople and it works very well. It's similar to the Ethan Hawke contemporary Hamlet from the nineties as well as the Baz Luhrman Romeo and Juliet that makes the contemporary atmosphere work to the favor of the story. The film is full of action and violence and it's shot with verve.
The entire cast is flawless, Fiennes plays an unsympathetic Coriolanus with restraint and anger (very similar to his Schindler's list Nazi). Vanessa Redgrave as his militaristic mother Volumnia gives her most commanding and mesmerizing performance in a decade, she is spectacular. Scottish action superstar Gerard Butler was a revelation as rival warrior Aufidius, he handles the iambic pentameter beautifully and he can match Fiennes blow for blow in screen presence. Jessica Chastain acquits herself well as Fiennes long suffering wife.
The film does honor to Shakespeare, and is true to the play. However, it's one of Shakespeare's least appealing plays to a wide audience. It's about politics, the will of the people, misuse of power, all told with a uncompromising bleakness. Twelfth Night has more laughs and poetry. Heck, King Lear has more laughs than this one. And Julie Taymor's Titus has more visual kick. But on the filmed Shakespeare top ten films list, this one might just squeak in.
Nste's Grade: B
Even though it may at first seem like a return to the good old days when generals led their troops into battle, with this production of "Coriolanus," Ralph Fiennes does an excellent job of bringing Shakespeare kicking and screaming to relevance in the present day that goes beyond the eponymous character running afoul of Clausterwitz's famous dictum that "War is the continuation of policy by other means." Filming in a former war zone helps, as the opening protests bring to mind recent similar protests in Europe(note the faces, even though Shakespeare was never one for the common person) but the movie loses some of its punch as it goes on. Even then, the story's momentum continues through its memorable finale, thanks in large part to the superb performances from Vanessa Redgrave and Ralph Fiennes.
All the classics have been taken already so Fiennes is stuck with one of the lesser known of the writer's plays, the tale of an excommunicated Roman General who returns for revenge. The reason we haven't seen this on screen before is because it's simply not a very good story, there's little dramatic meat here. Fiennes relocates it to an alternate Rome which resembles the contemporary Balkans and shoots it like a "Call Of Duty" video game. Personally I would have found the original setting of ancient Rome more visually interesting.
Despite the presence of Gerard Butler the well-assembled cast are superb, Redgrave especially as Fiennes' psychotic mother. Chastain has given more great performances in the last year alone than most actresses will in a lifetime and here she performs with a confidence that is often lacking in American thesps when tackling this material.
Many actors have turned their hand to directing and been found lacking, Fiennes is but the latest.
As with many Shakespeare classics, we're looking a larger-than-life leads that face limited exposition, though few adaptations have made you realize that as much as this film. Investment is claimed later on, yet right away, development lapses and goes rather rushed, yet isn't the only thing that feels rather rushed. Now, the rushing isn't even mildly on a level of "The Iron Lady", where almost everything that's significant is literally told through montage, after montage, after montage, after montage ("The Iron Lady" covers the youth, entire career and old age of Margaret Thatcher, and yet it's shorter than this film that just barely runs two hours; that should tell you how messy that film was), yet there are still points where you feel as though they could have dropped a bit more meditation of exposition, even after the not-always-smooth development segment. Still, all of those flaws come and go, yet are always less prominent than the slowness, while what truly keeps this film from being excellent is this constant and this constant alone: It's just not "that" excellent. Shakespeare adaptations directed, written and lead onscreen by a true respecter have had a history of really hitting, yet this is just simply not another Branagh's "Hamlet", which is one, big, piece of evidence that you most certainly don't have to rush spots in a Shakespeare story for it to work. Four hours of mostly dialogue and under 9 different settings, it better work. Anyways, the point is that this film is not one to quickly evoke when looking through the most notable Shakespeare adaptations, yet neither is it an adaptation that can be easily lost in the long haul, not just because it really is the first and only major adaptation of this obscure Shakespeare piece and stars Lord Voldemort and Leonidas, but because what Fiennes nails, he really delivers on.
Action only comes into play here and there, yet when it does hit the scene, it's hard to not be excited, not because it's awesomely over-the-top, but because it's smart. Don't get me wrong, the action is cool, yet it's not simply looking to blow your mind; only to twist your nerves, and in that regard, Fiennes delivers as director so sharply that even a scene in which Coriolanus takes a drink of water has you on the edge of your seat, and while the action isn't terribly prominent, it wakes you up. The same can be said about Ilan Eshkeri's score, which is neither heavily exposed nor terribly stellar, for that matter, yet it's intense and sets tone that really engages you in the film for every moment it does something that knocks you out of it. That kind of stuff really kicks you awake, yet it's not always there forever, unlike Ralph (Oh, forget it) Fiennes' atmosphere, which isn't terribly intense or enthralling, yet it is engaging and constant enough for you to stay attached to the story, regardless of its missteps, as it manages to mix its classic Shakespearean tension and contemporary relevance to create a kind of striking sense of intrigue that progressively intensifies, little by little, and keeps you going, maybe not always, but enough for you to walk away more satisfied than not with the picture. For that, we have to give credit to, not only Ralph Fiennes, but Ralph Fiennes, as well as his fellow onscreen performers. Okay, now, I wouldn't consider most of performances really killer, yet every performance is quite good and effective in the context of the story, whether it be Vanessa Redgrave as Coriolanus' uneasing mother, Jessica Chastain (Yeah, we haven't seen her in a while) as Coriolanus' fearing wife or Gerard Butler as Coriolanus' equal opponent and, later, partner in corruption. Yes people, do not that I am emphasizing how everything leads back to the Gaius Marcius Coriolanus character, because, as the title would suggest, this is his show, just like it's Ralph Fiennes' show, something Fiennes doesn't let forget offscreen and most certainly doesn't let you forget while he's on the camera, as he delivers what it easily the best performance of the film, portraying this brilliant hero's corruption and fall from grace with subtlety and, well, grace, emphasizing the brutality and scarring that, when mixed with power and controversy, all but totally prevails over the genius of our lead, and the way Fiennes portrays this classic Shakespeare tale of tragedy, both onscreen and off, really makes this film worth watching.
In closing, this adaptation of Shakespeare is not among the most notable, and not just because of the spots in storytelling, as well as the constant slowness, yet what makes this film an enjoyable piece in the Shakespeare haul is Ralph Fiennes constant atmosphere of ever-intensifying intrigue - broken up by heavy tension, summoned by solid action and a sharp score -, supplemented by across-the-board effective performances, with Fiennes' as this great leader crushing under the weight of corruption being the most upstanding, ultimately leaving "Coriolanus" to stand as both a generally rewarding exposing of one of Shakespeare's most obscure classics, as well as Ralph Fiennes filmmaking abilities.
3/5 - Good