Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: Coriolanus

Non Spoiler Review:
I'm a big fan of Shakespeare on film, so the initial trailer for Coriolanus made me eager for an exciting interpretation of this play, starring the likes of Gerard Butler (300), Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter), the always awesome Vanessa Redgrave, and Jessica Chastain (Tree of Life).

In this modern take on the story, Rome is in turmoil over food riots, and its greatest hero, Gaius Martius (Fiennes), has no sympathy for the masses, as he's engaged in conflict with the rebel Volscians, under the command of his nemesis Tullius Aufidius (Butler). Once achieving victory, Martius is named Coriolanus, and with the help of his powerful mother Volumnia (Redgrave) is named consul. But a conspiracy in the Senate by his enemies forces him into exile and into a new alliance with his hated enemy to exact revenge on the city that spurned him.

Like recent interpretations of Titus Andonicus and Romeo and Juliet, Coriolanus takes place in a reimagined modern Rome, effectively using news broadcasts and war footage to convey this city beset by invaders at its borders. I had never read this play so went into it with no preconceptions aside from the trailer.

The performances are all quite good, with extra compliments going to Fiennes, Butler and Redgrave who really pull off some intense dialogue and scenes together. Additional performances by Brian Cox (X-Men 2) and other secondary characters are equally notable. Really, the only one who suffered from lack of anything interesting to do is Julia Chastain as Coriolanus' wife, Virgilia. But that's no fault of hers. The play just doesn't really offer a meaty role for her.

And so to my only criticism of the film, which lies in the culmination of the plot. This is a really well made and interesting movie up until the very end. Like the more recent Tempest by Julie Taymor, it suffers from a resolution that lacks the impact necessary for a more epic cinema experience, and rather more suited to live theatre. Even having not read the play, I saw this rather no-brainer of a climax coming, but was still surprised when the credits abruptly rolled and I was asking myself if that's all we get after such a great build up.

That's not to say it's horrible by any means. Just disappointing, with an ending that feels more of a whimper than a bang, given most of the film unfolds a compelling political plot. Definitely watch this for the performances and style. Just don't expect to be blown away at its conclusion in a manner that my favorites, Titus and Romeo and Juliet, deliver.

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