Coriolanus Review
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In recent years, he’s become widely known as the evil Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter movies—but Ralph Fiennes is so much more than just a kids’ movie villain. Throughout his two-decade career, the Oscar-nominated actor has done everything from classic Shakespearian theater to fluffy chick flicks. But in his new Shakespearian adaptation, Coriolanus, he tries his hand at something new: directing.

In addition to directing the film, Fiennes also stars as Caius Martius, a ruthless Roman general with an obvious and deep-seated contempt for the common people. He’s thwarted the people’s revolts against the government in attempt to get the food they need to survive—but, among the city’s leaders, he’s a hero.

After a wounded Martius is victorious over a band of rebels led by his old enemy, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler), he’s given the new name Coriolanus. He’s also poised to rise to a position of power, but his pride causes a pair of tribunes to turn against him, rallying the people to have him banished from Rome.

  
 
Angry and bitter, Coriolanus decides to seek vengeance on the city that betrayed him through an unexpected alliance.

Coriolanus isn’t what you might expect from a Shakespearian adaptation. Though it has a number of ancient cultural touches (like politicians stirring up the people in the streets), the setting is a dark and gritty yet (nearly) modern-day war zone, complete with cell phones and bickering pundits who debate political issues on television talk shows. At the same time, though, the language is still Shakespeare’s (or maybe someone else’s)—which definitely takes a little getting used to. It’s an unusual pairing—a gritty war drama written in 17th-century dialogue—but that’s also what makes Coriolanus such a fascinating film.

Meanwhile, though the dialogue is sometimes quite difficult to follow—and it definitely requires viewers’ undivided attention—the actors make the language come alive. When Vanessa Redgrave (playing Coriolanus’s mother, Volumnia) appeals to her son, you’ll know what she’s asking just by the tone of her voice. And when Coriolanus speaks to the people, his wild eyes and facial expressions say just as much as the words he speaks.

While the film is filled with impassioned performances by a remarkable ensemble cast, however, Fiennes still manages to stand out. Though many actor/directors tend to step back their on-screen roles—especially in their first time behind the camera—Fiennes throws himself into his performance, giving it the same kind of brooding darkness and hatred that he brought to his role as Voldemort. When, with blood-streaked bald head, he fiercely rages against his enemy in an early scene, the striking imagery and no-holds-barred performance will have you hooked.

Of course, Coriolanus won’t exactly appeal to wide audiences. The drawn-out drama often drags—and the original language admittedly adds another (somewhat intimidating) barrier. It takes work to follow the story—but fans of Shakespearian tragedy will be captivated by Fiennes’s bold adaptation.

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