This is one of the very best Shakespeare-to-film productions I have seen. Set in modern day, Fiennes uses television news clips to help make everything crystal clear. Excellent performances from all. Outstanding.
Shakespeare never ages and without doubt Ralph Fiennes proves that categorically - what an incredible 'eastern european' interpretation of this not so well known play. I studied this for my A Level English Literature and I've since seen Kenneth Brannah take the lead role too and although so different, both presentations were fabulous. For me, it was a must for my collection. Coriolanus lives - and Ralph Fiennes is amazing!
This is a pared-back version of one of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays and in spite of the inherent problems of the original text it's an absolute treat to watch the bravura cast in action. Fiennes has a sure hand on both sides of the camera - his Coriolanus is so primed for war he can't really 'do' peace any more (hence the plot glitch towards the end), and watching such a figure prowl in a contemporary conflict seems absolutely logical. The political backdrop and flip-flopping populace are (alas) pitch-perfect in today's world. And Redgrave's Volumnia is outstanding.
This is a truly remarkable adaptation of Coriolanus, and a brilliant directorial debut for Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes as Coriolanus, especially in the latter half when he joins forces with Aufidius in Antium, possesses a similar sort of disturbing and charismatic energy as Brando as Kurtz in 'Apocalypse Now'. Butler, Redgrave, Chastain and Cox all give stellar performances, and I was captivated from the opening sequence right through to the finale. Excellent stuff.
Ralph Fiennes directed and played the title role in this excellent, tight version of this late Shakespearean tragedy. The initial situation is that there is a food shortage in Rome at a time when the city is under attack by the Volscians and their charismatic leader Aufidius (Gerard Butler). The action is updated from the time of the Roman Republic to what looks like the modern Balkans, and although there's initially a sense of slight awkwardness of fit -- for the city is still called "Rome" and the political arrangements therein seem distinctly un-Balkan -- it works very well, and in fact as the movie goes on, the way in which Coriolanus's exile and alliance with the Volscians is handled seems very effective. In the course of a winter journey from "Rome" to Aufidius's camp Fiennes acquires a beard that makes him resemble Bradley Cooper in "American Sniper," and the way in which his military prowess and charisma wins over the Volscians and awakens Aufidius's jealousy is very persuasive and sets up the ending beautifully. I have to say that it works too to see scenes of military action -- which we don't see in staged versions -- that demonstrate Coriolanus's prowess and courage. In the movie's early scenes, the urban warfare in Corioli, where the protagonist, heretofore simply Caius Martius, wins his name after defeating the Volscians there, are as persuasive as any gritty representation of such action as you'll see on the screen, and it also establishes the extent to which Coriolanus is most himself when he's in battle, and so it makes sense later when he seems to become a kind of efficient killing machine. The other dimension that the movie's updating highlights, by virtue of its attention to modern media, is the way reputations are made and come to matter and are subject to manipulation.
Fiennes gives a great performance as a man who disdains the very people that he is serving and protecting. He is an aristocrat who has no time for the idea of popular sovereignty, and we come to understand, thanks also to a great performance by Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia, his mother, that both ideals -- military prowess and arrogant disdain of the populace, his sense of himself as a remarkable person -- have been bred into him since the cradle. So there comes to be a psychological dynamic at work, as well as a political one. The only person Coriolanus admires is the soldier most like him -- the Volscian Aufidius, who is also an enemy of Rome. So when the tribunes, the leaders of the Roman populace, manipulate a situation that leads to Coriolanus's exile, by making his disdain for the people into an accusation of treason, it makes sense that he would find his way to Aufidius and offer him help in the Volscian's war against Rome. If Rome considers him an enemy, then he'll be an implacable enemy, and with the Volscian army, he marches on Rome. The Romans now regret the exile of Coriolanus, for they have no military leader of comparable courage or competence, and in the climax of the action -- marvellously staged and paced in this movie -- first Coriolanus's friend Menenius (Brian Cox) and then his family (Volumnia, and his wife [Jessica Chastain] and child) plead to him for peace. Coriolanus resists Menenius, but after an extended scene gives way to his mother, and it's clear in that scene that both Volumnia and Coriolanus understand that for him to agree to peace is to in effect betray the Volscians and Aufidius. What follows is predictable and painful. The work that Fiennes and Redgrave do in that great confrontation between mother and son is as good Shakespearean acting as I've seen on stage or screen, and in fact this movie works every bit as well as earlier "great" Shakespearean movies like Olivier's "Hamlet" and Branagh's "Henry V."
The cast is rock-solid throughout. Coriolanus's wife is a thankless small part, but Jessica Chastain makes it count. Brian Cox is a gloomy realist as Menenius, always working to balance the interests of his friend with those of the people and those of Rome as a whole. Gerard Butler is fine as Aufidius, and it was a nice touch in the movie to show him as warmly embraced by his people in a way that Coriolanus was not by his. The Scottish accents of Butler and the actors playing his officers neatly establishes the "alien-ness'' of the Volscian's viv-a-vis Rome. But this is at heart Fiennes's and Redgrave's show, and it's very potent stuff. Highly recommended.