Starring Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave
Anyone who's done a decent amount of stage-work knows that Shakespeare is possibly the greatest challenge for a performer. It's never an easy task; the dialogue is foreign to our day and age, the characters are complex, and it's never an easy tale to tell. Ralph Fiennes takes on one of Shakespeare's least performed plays and sets out to direct, star in, and modernize Coriolanus; the thought itself is almost overwhelming, let alone the task.
The result may prove that Ralph Fiennes may be one of the greatest performers and visionaries of film in our time.
Caius Martius 'Coriolanus' (Ralph Fiennes) is both the enemy and hero of the people of Rome; he isn't afraid to risk life and limb fighting for his country, or make unpopular decisions to ration food for the masses. Proud and fearless, he only gives his respect to his wife Virgilia (Jessica Chastain) and his mother Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave). After defeating his sworn enemy in battle, Tulius Aufidius (Gerard Butler), Caius Martius attempts to become Consul of Rome; but his temper quickly flares, angers senators and the people, and is forced into exile.
Ralph Fiennes, in his directing debut, proves he has the talent to both act in and direct extremely challenging projects (as if there could be a much bigger challenge than this project). He brings ancient Rome into the present day, despite the challenges of the script; there are some items that are clearly outdated for this day and age, yet he makes them feel like they're a natural part of the process, such as the Consul addressing the public in an open market, or a general taking up an assault rifle and leading his men into battle.
His performance is simply spectacular, and the performances by everyone else is equally impressive. Everyone, from Fiennes to Vanessa Redgrave to Brian Cox to even Gerard Butler (whom I haven't been too impressed with lately) handle the Shakespearean dialogue as if it's every day language and slang. There's no overly dramatic flair that you can risk with a Shakespeare piece, and that simply isn't here. Half the time the lines don't even sound like poetry unless it's during a longer monologue; this small detail makes the film much easier to take and understand, especially for those that aren't fluent in the bard's works and words.
As with most works of Shakespeare, there's a lot of character dynamic and growth, as well as plot development. Remember, Shakespeare's plays were done in five acts, with each act almost an individual story. This creates for a fairly drawn out film, and not in a bad way; as there is a lot of story to tell, it moves fast, but there is a LOT more going on than your typical Hollywood film. Again, not a bad thing, but it'll make the movie feel much different than what we've been used to.
There's one great action scene as Coriolanus leads his troops against Tulius, then it's all about Coriolanus' journey in an attempt to become Consul, then his desire for revenge. Those expecting an all out action movie may be disappointed, but if you like your action subtle with dynamic tension between characters, you should be quite pleased.
Despite it's slow release to theaters (Coriolanus was released back in mid-December in L.A. and New York to be considered for the Oscars), it's a film you should really consider checking your local markets for. You won't be disappointed.