Film Review: Coriolanus

Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut Coriolanus is a modern-day adaptation of the Shakespeare’s play using the Bard’s original language. The film is skillfully produced but unfortunately rather dull.

Caius Martius is a respected member of the Roman army, well known for his bravery. Succeeding on his most recent mission to defend Rome from the Volscian uprising, the soldier is bestowed with the name Coriolanus and encouraged to run for consul. Angering the populace and with politicians as enemies, Coriolanus is in for a rough ride…

Coriolanus is a solid debut from Fiennes. Notwithstanding, there is a major problem with the film in that it can be a little boring at times. It feels too drawn out as a whole to hold one’s attention for the entire duration. While the battle scenes are frenetic, some of the dialogue-heavy scenes are far too prolonged. There are sine good scenes, such as the crowd polling one, but others go on for too long and slacken the entire film’s momentum.

The contemporary setting of Coriolanus works well, although it is unusual and unintentionally humorous to hear news reader Jon Snow speak in Shakespearean verse. Some of the issues covered by the film, such as the duty of public servants, are very pertinent for modern audiences. The battle scenes are full throttle, with Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography reminiscent of his work in The Hurt Locker.

Ralph Fiennes delivers a powerhouse performance in the title role. Excellent support is provided by Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox. Jessica Chastain is also decent as ever, but underused in her minor role.

In one way, it was a wise move to adapt Coriolanus; unlike a lot of Shakespeare’s work, not all will be familiar with it. There is an element of unpredictability which is missing from adaptations of the Bard’s more famous works. Nevertheless, Coriolanus is not the most interesting of stories as not an awful lot happens in the two-hour running time.

Coriolanus is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.

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