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  Coriolanus You Realise Of Course This Means War
Year: 2011
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain, James Nesbitt, Lubna Azabal, Ashraf Barhom, John Kani, Dragan Micanovic, Radoslav Milenkovic, Paul Jesson, Jon Snow, David Yelland, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ivan Djordjevic
Genre: Drama, WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: There is great unrest in Rome thanks to food shortages, and the citizens are making plain their displeasure by taking to the streets. The Army has been called in to achieve some level of stability, led by General Caius Martius (Ralph Fiennes), a fearsome warrior now turned on the people he is supposed to be protecting. When the crowds gather at a large grain store, he is there to reason with them, in his own belligerent manner, pointing out that it's all very well the public accepting him when he is out fighting for them, but they should accept him in peacetime as well...

It had been Ralph Fiennes' dream to make a film of Coriolanus, one of William Shakespeare's most obscure plays, ever since he had taken the lead in a successful stage production, so combining forces with Hollywood screenwriter John Logan, a man with a brace of hits under his belt, he set about bringing it to the screen. The results were predictably updated to the modern age, as Fiennes viewed the work as one that would have resonance with contemporary audiences, so all sorts of accoutrements that the Bard would never have dreamed of - television rolling news, machine guns, and so forth - were pressed into service.

Of course, there were still those who wished Fiennes had raided the costume cupboard for togas, breastplates and helmets, and thought his endeavours to make this relevant in imagery was undercutting the source, but it was par for the course that Shakespeare when translated to the movies would be altered to a different time period than the one it was originally set in. Whether that did indeed render it more vital for the punters at the local multiplex was a moot point, because they still retained the language which was a dead giveaway - were these updaters trying to fool people into watching the classics with action movie trappings, as there were here? Because passages in this were rather dry.

That said, it was a brave attempt, and Fiennes' instinct that there was something to say to the 21st Century as much as there had been in Shakespeare's time about war and politics was not far off the mark as much as could be ascertained. Martius' problem is that he doesn't know what to do with himself when he's not in battle, so when he beats his rival Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler proving he could act rather than coast through a romcom) who has been threatening Rome all those cheerleaders around Martius encourage him to take a position as a consul. Naturally, he's not the right sort of man for the job, and soon has brought down the wrath of the people on his head, who eventually banish him from the city.

Leading to scenes of Ralph moodily wandering away down country roads not unlike Bill Bixby at the end of an episode of The Incredible Hulk as meanwhile Aufidius is biding his time and drawing up fresh plans for attack. There was a point here that the will of the public is not necessarily to be trusted, and that they can be whipped up into indignation and even violence by the right (or wrong) kind of rhetoric, but then Coriolanus never quite convinces us that he's entirely sympathetic to what is beneficial to the citizens he swore to protect. Fiennes secured a strong cast, including Jessica Chastain as the hopelessly devoted wife, Vanessa Redgrave formidable as the manipulative mother, and Brian Cox as Menenius, the politician who tries to beat Martius' sword into a ploughshare, though British viewers might have been amused to see TV journalist Jon Snow supplying the same role here as he does on the news. There was certainly food for thought in the parallels they made, but the nagging feeling this was a lesser staged play for a reason may have made it more difficult to get on with. Music by Ilan Eshkeri.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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