Cinema Review: Coriolanus

Shake it Up

DIR: Ralph Fiennes • WRI: John Logan • PRO: Ralph Fiennes, John Logan, Gabrielle Tana, Julia Taylor-Stanley, Colin Vaines • DOP: Barry Ackroyd • ED: Nicolas Gaster • DES: Ricky Eyres • Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, James Nesbitt

After his brother played the title role in Shakespeare in Love, Ralph Fiennes decided to one up his sibling with his directorial debut, Coriolanus, a modern-day version of the Shakespearean tragedy, spoken in original verse.

Set in ‘Rome’ – a place unsure whether it is a nameless poverty-stricken Eastern European country or the UK – the film opens with it’s unhappy citizens plotting against Caius Martius (Ralph Fiennes), an Army General who’s withholding grain from them. After riots begin break out, Martius quells them with force, while making little effort to hide his repulsion towards the lower classes.

Later, in an action-packed battle sequence, Martius comes face to face with his nemesis, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). Following a knife-fight between the two – which resembled an odd energetic bear hug – Martius returns to Rome where Cominius gives him the third name Coriolanus. So after a chat with his mum, the newly-dubbed Coriolanus is convinced to run for consul, which he does reluctantly, and wins – however he ultimately loses because the fifteen/twenty people in a shanty town get a sudden change of heart. Thus initiating the PR disaster that is the downfall of Coriolanus.

The performances overall were decent. It was only Ralph himself letting the side down; his choice to play Coriolanus as overtly stoic, teamed with Willy S’s dialogue meant it was difficult to fully understand the character’s thought process. Vanessa Redgrave was excellent as his mother, what little lines Jessica Chastain got were performed exquisitely, and local talent, James Nesbitt does a top job as the snide Sicinius. Come to think of it, it wasn’t just Ralph. Lurking in the background is some of the funniest extra acting to date.

Coriolanus feels much longer than it actually is, due to the fact it’s limited action takes place solely in the first third of the film. The rest is a compilation of unnecessarily slow, lingering shots and countless, weighty monologues that make little sense in the bizarre modern setting.  In fact, quite a few scenes are indulgent, contrived and sometimes downright ridiculous (see Aufidius’s troops’s homo-erotic chair party).

This verbose, clunky film should only be viewed as a cheeky alternative for lazy students who couldn’t be bothered reading the original.

Gemma Creagh

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Coriolanus is released on 20th January 2012

Coriolanus – Official Website

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