Movie Review - Coriolanus

Ralph Fiennes directed this movie, which is an adaptation of Shakespeare's play. As have been done before, the movie is set in modern-day time, 400 years after Shakespeare set his play, except Fiennes and screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator and The Aviator) preserve the original dialogue. It's not a line-by-line reading of Shakespeare's text. A lot of what the bard penned is removed or re-arranged in lieu of war scenes and bloody combats. In the play, a lot of the action is verbally described without being depicted. Here, Fiennes merely depicts those actions.

According to Katherine Eisaman Maus who worked on The Norton Shakespeare: Based on the Oxford Edition, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, the man on whom this story is based lived in the 5th century B.C. and was named Caius Martius Coriolanus. He was a soldier in the Roman army. He was so good that he rose up to be a candidate in the Roman government but Coriolanus was never elected. Instead, Coriolanus was banished.

The Norton Shakespeare suggests that this play was an attempt to explain why, while also commenting on the similarities between Roman politics and the politics of England during the Jacobean period. Fiennes' goal is to do the same. Fiennes wanted to explain or show Coriolanus' downfall, while also highlighting parallels between the politics of those past empires and the so-called empires of the 21st century, and not just the obvious English-speaking ones.

The politics aren't made all that clear because Fiennes doesn't set his movie in any one particular country but in a fictionalized world, so it becomes difficult to make any connections. Shakespeare set his play in Rome, Italy, an actual place. Fiennes doesn't set his movie in an actual place. The setting is called Rome, but it's not the Rome of today. It's the Rome of then but everyone has access to modern technology. While the issues of class warfare are applicable, there is a disconnect here.

Ralph Fiennes stars as Coriolanus, a patrician or aristocrat who is a soldier in the army. He seems to be at war with the Volscions, a separate tribe. The reason for the war is unknown or wasn't made clear to me. There is also civil strife. The poor or working class protests problems with food. Gerard Butler plays Aufidius, the leader of the Volscions or at least the general their army. Vanessa Redgrave plays Coriolanus' mother. Jessica Chastain is his wife and Brian Cox is a fellow patrician named Menenius.

To be honest, I couldn't follow much of the plot. In other movies based on Shakespeare plays, the characters were more defined in what they wanted or what they were doing. Here, I wasn't really sure what Coriolanus wanted. I gleaned that it turned into a kind of revenge tale, but, by the time it got there, I was already checked out of it. The only appeal was hearing Fiennes and Redgrave deliver really great monologues. Both are great actors.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for some bloody violence.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 3 mins.


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