You can’t really go too far wrong with Shakespeare, though this version of his acclaimed tragedy, a directorial debut from veteran actor Ralph Fiennes and starring him as the eponymous warlord and general of Rome, has great and, ahem, not so great performances to boast of. The story is a clash of warriors, egos and pride, and Rome’s defence against her enemies is relocated to a modern warfare setting, with location shots in Serbia and Montenegro providing the backdrop. Everything has a sort of artificial greyness to it, a haunted and low key ghetto like atmosphere, and at times the fighting feels like watching a game of ‘Ghost Recon’. However, I think generally this adds to the film rather than interfering or diluting the narrative, although there are one or two strange and perhaps over the top indulgences – such as a sort of orgiastic shedding of soldiers hair, courtesy of an executioner-esque, razor wielding barber.
Gerard Butler plays Coriolanus’ nemesis and military equal, Tullus Aufidius, and surprisingly it is he that has a bad time with Shakespeare’s lyrical lines – he doesn’t have too many of them, but he does make sure to take his time and brutally murder as many of them as he possibly can, lest they escape his bearded maw unharmed. Vanessa Redgrave appears as the mother of Coriolanus, with Jessica Chastain as his wife, and it is Redgrave who is consistently the scene stealer, with a convincing and committed turn from Fiennes for the most part too, and also from Brian Cox and James Nesbitt in support. A better, more intense finale over the last thirty minutes or so would not have gone amiss, and indeed here it gives the impression of Shakespeare almost veering on forced melodrama, but it’s still a good opportunity to see a performance of one of The Bard’s lesser known plays, and a mostly wonderful character portrait of Coriolanus himself. To have a look at the play itself, click here.
“Make you a sword of me?!” Ralph Fiennes/Coriolanus
“You might have been enough the man you are, with striving less to be so.” Vanessa Redgrave/Volumnia
“Pray, be counselled. I have a heart as little apt as yours, but yet, a brain. That leads my use of anger to better vantage.” Vanessa Redgrave/Volumnia
“Anger is my meat. I sup upon myself. And so shall starve with feeding.” Vanessa Redgrave/Volumnia
“This Martius has grown from man to dragon – he has wings. He’s more than a creeping thing. There is no more mercy in him, than there is milk in a male tiger.” Brian Cox/Menenius