RALPH FIENNES VANESSA REDGRAVE GERARD BUTLER BRIAN COX JESSICA CHASTAIN
I can’t say that I particularly liked Coriolanus; however, I admired the film as Ralph Fiennes's directorial debut. It seems that most actors who achieve certain goals and stay embedded within the acting world so long, turn to directing. Fiennes certainly has an eye and feel for it; not for a second did this feel like a first endeavor. Coriolanus is a play from Shakespeare, adapted like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet into modern times. There are no musical numbers, however, it’s a modern depiction of a country at war with Tyrant-like behavior on both sides, striking very relevant chords. The well chosen cast speak the words as they are written, which is far more compelling here than when DiCaprio and Danes tried and failed to pull that off in the mid nineties.
Modern day Rome still functions like the days of old; the people still look to the Gods for answers. Caius (Fiennes) is Rome’s most fearless general, proving himself time and again with his trophy scars. His pride stands in the way of his continuation up the ranks however and his disgust of common people separates him from the power of the country. His rage finally shows through in a way he is exiled from Rome only to return the greatest and most terrible force the country has ever witnessed. Now his own mother (Redgrave) and wife (Chastain) will plead for his mercy.
Rome is depicted more like the Middle East in the film than a beautiful ancient city. Even with the famous Shakespearean dialect, Coriolanus is difficult to grasp. That leads the viewer more into the eyes and movements of the actors, who all the way around do a stunning job. Fiennes is his usual, intense self; many viewers might find him strange looking after seeing him in the Voldemort role for so long. However, it's 74 year old Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave that stands out here. Even that slick Roman uniform is unforgettable. She has far more screen time than we have seen from her in nearly a decade. Her intensity matches that of Fiennes, which isn’t an easy task. Her early Oscar buzz is proven and deserved.
“There is no more mercy in him than there is milk in a male tiger” says Brian Cox’s character after a failed meeting to ask Caius to spare the city. What Fiennes doesn’t perfect in his direction of the project is how to hold an audience’s attention that isn’t specifically interested in the Shakespearian aspect of the film. He seems to quickly divide his audience, pleasing neither party. The older audience members who are drawn to the material seemed distraught by the violence and brutality along with his very rigid handheld cinematography style. On the other hand the younger viewers become bored in the long sections of dialogue that seem only to set up actions before they actually occur.
Final Thought – An admirable directorial debut from Fiennes and a powerful performance from Redgrave.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Michael Woody