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dir Ralph Fiennes
scr John Logan
prd Ralph Fiennes, John Logan, Gabrielle Tana, Julia Taylor-Stanley, Colin Vaines
with Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, James Nesbitt, Paul Jesson, John Kani, Lubna Azabal, Ashraf Barhom, Harry Fenn, Jon Snow
release US 13.Jan.12, UK 20.Jan.12
11/UK BBC 2h03
War hero: Chastain and Fiennes
BERLIN FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Actor-director Fiennes sets Shakespeare's military tragedy in a modern-day war setting, which gives it a meaty kick of recognition. But it's such a bombastic film that it's difficult to find much emotional resonance in it.
Amid political and social turmoil, Martius (Fiennes) is a blunt Roman soldier, subduing insurrections in the surrounding kingdoms, making an enemy of Volscian leader Tullus (Butler) but returning home a war hero and crowned Coriolanus. Despite the help of his military-leader mother (Redgrave), his loyal wife Virgilia (Chastain) and a respected senator (Cox), Martius is unable - and unwilling - to play the political game, insulting both the senate and the public. Banished from public life, he joins with Tullus and sets about conquering Rome his own way.
In setting the story in the present day, Fiennes captures the current global atmosphere in ways he couldn't have anticipated. The film opens with riots about injustice and oppression in the streets of Rome, so the ensuing military crackdown and invasions of neighbouring cities look eerily like news footage we see every day. Indeed, much of the movie is framed by a TV screen, as we see reports of the momentous events reported by real British newscaster Jon Snow (in Shakespearean verse, of course).
While Fiennes rages at the centre as the soldier blinded by pride and disdain, the cast around him give much more measured, layered performances that make the dialog spring to life. Redgrave and Cox are particularly effective at baring their souls on screen in ways that continually take us aback. In a smaller role, Chastain is equally honest, while Nesbitt and Jesson are strong as Martius' political nemeses. And even Butler manages to engage our sympathies in a few quiet moments.
The problem is that Fiennes never does. Sure, Martius is a bullheaded, righteous, no-nonsense soldier, but we never quite get behind his blustering outer shell. Much of Fiennes' dialog is blurted incomprehensibly, so while we are gripped by his tragic story, we're never moved by it. And it's the same with the film as a whole: we're fascinated by the clever approach to Shakespeare, but we're never taken away by it. Berlin/Toronto/London
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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