May 27, 2012

Filthy Review - Coriolanus

Coriolanus (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

When I was a wee youngster I, along with countless others, studied to some degree the works of Shakespeare. With me it was, shall we say, the usual suspects of Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar. All of which I enjoy, although it was not until later in life that I really appreciated them. One play I did not study, and still have not read, is Coriolanus, on which this film is based. After watching this though I probably will at some point, as this is one hell of a movie.

Am sure most people would agree that when Ralph Fiennes decided to direct his debut feature that he wasn’t going to just go with a no-brain Hollywood style flick, and with Coriolanus he most certainly hasn’t. He has taken the story by Shakespeare and moved it to present day Rome, although he has kept the language of the time. So, if you had no problem following movies such as Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet you should have no trouble following this. Even if you do find yourself getting a little lost with the language, which you shouldn’t, Fiennes has employed little pointers here and there in which to help you out; such as news reports that relay what is going on.

The story itself follows the Roman General Caius Martius ‘Coriolanus’, a feared man who is at odds with the citizens of Rome. However, after a bloody battle against the Volscian army, whose leader is Coriolanus’ sworn enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) he finds himself in favor again. This is Shakespeare though, and it most certainly is not a comedy, so things aren’t about to go smoothly. Coriolanus is urged by his mother (Vanessa Redgrave) to run for Consul, but in order to do so he must get votes from the people, and he isn’t about to play the political game. Push comes to shove and Coriolanus ends up inciting a riot which sees him banished from Rome.

Coriolanus is quite simply a terrific movie. It’s violent, with battles aplenty, the script is wonderfully delivered by the great cast and the story keeps twisting and turning throughout. Even with the amazing cast assembled, which also includes Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain and James Nesbitt, there is one figure that towers above everyone else, and that is of course Ralph Fiennes. He gives an amazing performance through not only the dialogue but also his body language. He is in turn scary, formidable and vulnerable and dominates every scene he is in. Add in to the fact that he was directing his feature length debut and further credit must be given to this very talented man.

The film blends action and lengthy scenes of dialogue seamlessly and will keep you engrossed throughout this tragic story. If I did have one minor gripe with the film it would be that the filming location, which I believe was Serbia, looks nothing like Rome, past or present. That takes nothing away from the power or effect of the film though, if anything it only adds to the grittiness of the story.

On the sleeve to this Blu-ray/DVD release there is a quote that states that this is Shakespeare’s Rambo. In all honestly a fairer comparison would be to say that it is Shakespeare’s First Blood, but even then it is just dumbing it down for mass consumption. Coriolanus is a complex and riveting movie that shows that even if Shakespeare was once in love, as the movie would have us believe, that he was also capable of works of unflinching violence. This film might not be particularly graphic, but it is indeed violent.

Ralph Fiennes has come up trumps with this film, and I would not hesitate to recommending it to anyone. Don’t be put off by the language, as I mention you will get used to it. I’m already looking forward to Fiennes next film as director, which at the time of writing this is The Invisible Woman.

Coriolanus is released on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and DVD on May 29th through Anchor Bay.

No comments: