Movie Review: Coriolanus

21 Jan

Shakespeare adaptations in movies haven’t always worked out so greatly. Hamlet in 1990 with Glenn Close and Mel Gibson wasn’t so great. The Baz Luhrman Romeo and Juliet had potential but didn’t turn out to be a great film. There have been some great ones though. Take Kenneth Branagh’s brilliant rendition of Henry V, for example. Ralph Fiennes’s Coriolanus definitely fits into the great category.

Coriolanus is a tragedy written by Shakespeare sometime between 1605 to 1608. Caius Martius Coriolanus (Fiennes) despises the people of Rome. His extreme views cause riots to break out and panic is filed throughout the city. He is desperate to seek revenge on the city and his arch enemy Aufidius (Gerard Butler).


Fiennes has now stepped behind the camera for the first time as director. He’s done a fantastic job. It’s apparent that Fiennes is a great Shakespeare interpreter because he’s chosen what to explore and what to develop and what not to very nicely. He’s made it more modern by setting it now, with gun warfare, news footage etc. but the language is kept intact. It’s a perfect blend of the old and new. Barry Ackroyd (cinematographer of The Hurt Locker) has photographed this excellently to formulate a a startled, stricken atmosphere in the film. John Logan (Tony Award winning playwright of Red) has produced this very well with Fiennes and it feels like a really well executed piece of cinema. It’s finely chiselled and very smooth while maintaining the coarse, unpolished elements that the story needs.

Even on camera Fiennes is great. Physically the performance is powerful and orally he is confident and brave. Though it feels like a film, the way he has choreographed the actors makes it feel like plays. The way they pace during speeches and walk around the screen really feels play-like but in a good way. It’s over the top as it needs to be, Shakespeare doesn’t work if it isn’t dramatic.Vanessa Redgrave is a standout, playing Coriolanus’s mother Volumnia. Their relationship is integral to the character of Coriolanus and is on top form. The acting is first class but Gerard Butler is noticeably bad. His performance feels very shallow and cursory.

It’s an excellent movie. It’s hard going, brutal and powerful. Fiennes has achieved something magnificent by making Shakespeare relevant once again. A superb film.

11 Responses to “Movie Review: Coriolanus”

  1. Linda Grossman January 21, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    I agree with your review although I personally found the movie took all of my energy to maintain concentration. Perhaps not one to watch casually on that Sat afternoon! Love your blog Linda

    • aculturedlad January 22, 2012 at 9:18 am #

      Thanks for the comment!

      I totally agree. It drained me, as Shakespeare usually does!

  2. David Ringland January 21, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    This would have to be one of the best films of the decade. If you were rating films, this is a 10.

    • aculturedlad January 22, 2012 at 9:21 am #

      Thank you for commenting!

      I very much enjoyed this film. I’m looking forward to seeing Fiennes direct again. He’s been nominated for the BAFTA under the category ‘Best Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer’ which I think he might deservedly win!

      I do usually give ratings, I just forgot when I finished this post! I’ve given it a 4/5 but I suspect it’s the kind of movie that gets even better over time.

  3. Matthew Chisholst January 21, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    I never liked shakespeare at school and even today struggle to endure doing so purely to appease my ” I studied english at bristol” educated girlfriend Having said that, I did see a preview of the film and my girlfriend directed me to your blog. I agree with everything your wrote. A truly great piece of cinema. Gerard should watch and learn from his performance.

    • aculturedlad January 22, 2012 at 9:23 am #

      Thanks for the comment!

      Yes, Shakespeare is something that people either love or hate. What Fiennes has done here is use Shakespeare to its absolute finest. Glad you enjoyed it! I agree, Butler looked as if he was saying things without any gusto or conviction.

  4. colincarman January 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    Gerard Butler is supremely overrated. Great you reviewed this! I changed my blog name btw! Great review

    • aculturedlad January 22, 2012 at 9:26 am #

      Totally agree! Thank you! Yes, you did mention but I stupidly forgot! I’ve changed it now though.

  5. Nugros C February 26, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    i’d love Vanessa Redgrave in this movie
    So, so sad and utterly bizarre that Oscar and (especially)BAFTA left off one of their greats in a tour-de-force, Shakespearean performance

    • aculturedlad February 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

      Thanks for the comment!

      She was fantastic. I do agree that she deserved a nomination. I think the BAFTA chose better over all this year but I would’ve taken out Judi Dench to put in Vanessa Redgrave or Helen McCrory who was fantastic in Hugo.

      • Nugros C February 26, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

        I’m shocked they completely ignored “Coriolanus” and Vanessa Redgrave!!!
        yeah.Vanessa has never received enough recognition by Bafta(in her own country). Only two nominations in over 54 years of career! It’s an embarresement..i’m still confused about the constant love for Judi Dench whenever she gives a half-decent performance in something.

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