Coriolanus

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 May, 2012, 12:00am

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Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Category: IIB

A story about a Roman general's fall from grace amid public disapproval of his authoritarian traits, William Shakespeare's play boasts of a potential for different, modern-day readings.

It has counted praise from both Nazis (who see Coriolanus as a visionary F?hrer braving the ire of clueless commoners) and Marxists (with Bertolt Brecht adapting the play which portrays the lead character as a fascist tyrant ignoring the will of the people).

Having once played Coriolanus on stage, director and star Ralph Fiennes transforms the story from a 5th century BC tragedy into a 21st century political action-thriller.

Set in a grey European city described as 'a place calling itself Rome' Fiennes follows faithfully the Bard's play, as Coriolanus (Fiennes, above) emerges from a military victory and finds himself close to being ordained as his city state's leader.

Aghast at having to deal with politicians, and their request that he secure his subjects' approval in the agora (which materialises here in the form of a street market), the general falls out with his own ilk and joins his sworn enemy, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler, channelling the rebel as a militia leader) to avenge the humiliation he has suffered.

In a world of 24-hour television, the downfall of Fiennes' Coriolanus is vividly illustrated through rolling news bulletins and a grovelling apology to his people live on a gaudy talk show.

Remarkably well-mounted with a wealth of references to modern-day image-driven politics, Coriolanus is high in theatrics - which could have been a good thing for a stage-bound chamber piece, but could be somehow ill-placed for a film which does open up to scenes of war and social chaos.

Given the complexities of modern-day geopolitics - which Fiennes has certainly intended to allude to - the reconciliations seemed too simplistic. Coriolanus does offer powerful drama, but it's an update which falls short of engaging completely with what's unfolding for real today - something Fiennes must have wished to do.

Coriolanus opens today