Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Coriolanus movie review

Ralph Fiennes as Coriolanus with Gerard Butler as Tullus Aufidius
Coriolanus is a fabulous modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragic play. The movie remains true to the original language and Italian setting but is visually an action thriller with graphic violence and modern military dress. In Shakespeare's time, Italy was not a nation but a patchwork of kingdoms and independent city-states. Although nominally set in Rome, Coriolanus was shot in Serbia to recall more recent ethnic conflicts. The battle scenes and TV news montages draw disturbing parallels to the current civil uprisings and military crack downs in Arab nations. Shakespeare’s work is clearly still relevant four hundred years later.

Venessa Redgrave as Volumnia
Ralph Fiennes (yes, Voldemort in Harry Potter) plays Coriolanus, the charismatic war hero pushed reluctantly into politics. The belligerent leader fixates on revenge after his own people turn on him. A former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Fiennes's acting is top caliber. Even more impressive, he directed and produced the film. Vanessa Redgrave, playing his she-wolf mother, still manages to steal every scene that she’s in. Watching the two verbally spar on film is nearly as good as live theater.

Coriolanus, however, is not my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays. There are thematic elements of Julius Caesar, Macbeth and Hamlet, but this tragedy is not as well crafted as the others. The story has sudden jumps and reversals of character that are hard to follow. Script editing to create a movie-length version may have exacerbated this problem. The language is not as beautiful, but it is still captivating. 
My favorite line: “There is no more mercy in him than there is milk in a male tiger.” 
Bottom line: if you love Shakespeare or war movies, go see this film. Rated R for graphic violence.


Disclosure: I watched a preview Blue Ray disk with a movie critic friend. After previewing in December, the movie opened nationally on January 20, 2012 in the USA.  I’m planning on seeing it a second time on the big screen when it comes to Maine.  Movie stills photos and trailer from The Weinstein Company.


tina said...

You can certainly tell I don't know Shakespeare because I've never heard of this play. That being said any movie with Ralph Fiennes in it must be good. I'll look for it when it comes out. You do such a good job bringing these new movies to us.

A Cuban In London said...

Thank you very much for this fantastic review, Sarah. I had already read about it via an interview in Intelligent Life with Ralph Fiennes. He is one of the finest performers ever. Loved him in Schindler's List and The Reader. As for Redgrave, well, what can we say? The lady was born to act. Simple as that. I'm planning to go see this movie as soon as possible.

Tina, this was one Shakespeare's lesser-known plays. In fact, I think it was his last one.

Greetings from London.

Sarah Laurence said...

Tina, I've never seen this play performed, although both male leads have performed it on stage. ACIL is right about it being lesser-known ones, late in his career, but it was not his last one. I'd love to hear your take on it, given your military background.

ACIL, Fiennes was amazing in Schindler's List. I loved him in Quiz Show, The End of an Affair, The English Patient and the Constant Gardner too. On my to watch list are The Reader and The Hurt Locker. He's one of my favorite actors.

Amanda Summer said...

wow - thanks for this head's up. i had never heard of this movie before your review and now i am anxious to see it. ralph fiennes is a superb actor (funny how you mention his harry potter cred - i still think of the english patient when i hear his name) and vanessa redgrave's role in the film sounds quite juicy. will look forward to seeing it when it hits the midwest!

Elizabeth said...

Now you have made me want to see the film that I felt a little tepid about before.
Vanessa Redgrave and Ralph Fiennes in one play. Obviously a must-see.

☆sapphire said...


Thank you so much for this excellent review. I always love to read your film reviews. This film sounds very interesting. I'd love to see it! I once watched "Titus", an adaptation of the Shakespeare play "Titus Andronicus" on DVD and found it really really sad. I could not see it to the last. I prefer the 1996 modern adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" to it.

SG said...

Thanks for the great review. I'm curious to see this movie. I like Shakespeare's dramas. In fact, the Indian movie industry has made a few of his dramas into full length, modern day, Indain-ized movies. There have been numerous movies based on Romeo and Juliet. But the more interesting ones have been the ones based on Othello, Macbeth and A Comedy of Errors.

troutbirder said...

Oh my. I can actually comment. Things are looking up.
I can't explain exactly why I don't like Shakespeare in other settings. The Taming of the Shrew set in the Old West was one of the worst. Maybe Elizabeth Taylor? Still seeing Vanessa Redgrave again might be worth it... :)

cynthia said...

Wow! This looks like some movie. I haven't read the play but just went and pulled the Arkangel BBC recording from my recently acquired collection to listen to in the car today. On the back, there's a quote from Menenius, Act III, scene i:

"His nature is too noble for the world. He would not flatter Neptune for his trident, Or Jove for's power to thunder. His heart's his mouth. What his breast forges, that his tongue must vent."

Thanks for the review!

Ellen Booraem said...

Wow. I've never really liked this play, and my attitude wasn't helped by a truly hamhanded stage production I saw years ago. (Royal Shakespeare Company notwithstanding.) But this production looks great--and, as everyone has said, how can you go wrong with Fiennes and Redgrave?