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. Written by
Sir Ian McKellen credits Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus as one of his favorite Shakespearean performances on film. See more »
In the Senate, while General Cominius praises Coriolanus, in a close-up of Menenius on his right hand side a coat-of-arms of Republic of Serbia (doubleheaded eagle with crown) can be seen. The Senate scenes were filmed in the Serbian parliament building. See more »
Before we proceed any further, hear me speak. You are all resolved rather to die than to famish?
First, you know Caius Martius is chief enemy to the people.
We know it.
Let us kill him. And we'll have corn at our own price.
We are accounted poor citizens, the patricians of good. The leanness that afflicts us, the object of our misery, our suffering, is a gain to them.
Let us revenge this with our sticks, ere we become rakes.
No more talking on it. Come!
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Fiennes has made Shakespeare not only accessible but utterly thrilling
Shakespeare isn't Shakespeare without Shakespearean language. It might be difficult to understand exactly what the dialogue is during parts of Coriolanus, but there's no difficulty following the meaning. The action, the direction and some powerful performances most notably from Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave carry the film and more than compensate for the language barriers. Some people walked out about halfway through but the climactic third act made it well worth the perseverance especially Redgrave's moving monologue as the formidable matriarch Volumnia.
Gerard Butler was pretty forgettable in this. Whether that's because he isn't exactly of thespian discipline or because his character isn't particularly pronounced in this play, is up to you to decide. Perhaps he and Jessica Chastain are nothing more than a bit of totty to sell the film? Perhaps that's just a bit cynical.
James Nesbitt added an interesting, somewhat unexpected dynamic to the play with his enigmatic nuances of jest and malice. Also worth a mention was the little-known Dragan Micanovic who played a minor character, Titus, but delivered a couple of pivotal lines with engrossing presence.
The real star of the show is obviously Shakespeare. His poetic prose courses through your mind and adds fuel to the fires of his drama. His characters are bold and consistent, truly agents of their own destinies. The subject matter resonates with political allegory and the film's release is timely and relevant. The play set in a present day context highlights the tribal social system which still dominates our affairs. The story also works to express the futility of war.
Fiennes has done well to translate Coriolanus from the stage to the screen and he hasn't stretched it too far so as to alienate it from the original text. Stylistically, the film is quite gritty. The focus is mostly on the actors, their eyes, their expressions and their delivering of lines, but there are a few purely cinematic moments (fight scenes in particular) which justify the adaptation to the screen. There are a couple of truly violent moments in the film which blast the cobwebs off the old play and hook the modern, desensitized audience into the story.
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.
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