Tuesday, August 06, 2019


Based on the play by William Shakespeare, Coriolanus is the story of a general who seeks a spot in the world of politics only to put himself in trouble as he seeks the aid of an enemy to seek revenge. Directed and starring Ralph Fiennes in the titular role of Caius Martius aka Coriolanus and screenplay by John Logan, the film is a modern take of Shakespeare’s tragic play as it set in a 21st Century re-imagining idea of Rome where a man’s ambitions get him into trouble prompting him to fight back. Also starring Jessica Chastain, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, John Kani, James Nesbitt, Lubna Azabal, and Brian Cox. Coriolanus is a gripping and evocative film from Ralph Fiennes.

A powerful yet polarizing Roman general seeks to be in the world of politics yet a couple of political officials and local Romans successfully banish him from the city forcing the Caius Martius Coriolanus to seek the alliance of his sworn enemy in Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler) to seek revenge on Rome. It’s a film that play into the fallacy of ambition and vengeance as it follows a man whose arrogance and disdain for low-class citizens puts him at odds with those in the Roman Senate where a couple of tribunes try to discredit him as they would do things that are just as bad as what he’s done. John Logan’s screenplay opens with Coriolanus’ rise as a general who is cunning in his beliefs as well as maintaining some rule in Rome while is at war with a neighboring nation of Volsci that is led by Aufidius. Coriolanus’ victory against Aufidius would give him stature with Coriolanus’ mother Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave) encouraging him to go into politics.

Logan’s script doesn’t just retain much of the dialogue written by William Shakespeare but also its approach to character study with characters scheming and such for their own gain such as the characters of the tribunes Brutus (Paul Jesson) and Sicinius (James Nesbitt) vehemently dislike Coriolanus as they even gain the alliance of citizens who hate Coriolanus to join them. The film’s second half play into the aftermath of a TV interview with Coriolanus that fell apart as he’s been exiled from Rome with his family angry over the government with longtime family friend in Senator Menenius (Brian Cox) trying to smooth over the conflicts. Coriolanus goes to Volsci to find Aufidius to allow him to settle their conflict yet Aufidius is moved by his journey allowing Coriolanus to join him as both men have issues with Rome and its government that would create this unlikely alliance.

Fiennes’ direction definitely bears elements of theatricality in some scenes yet some of the film also bear elements of modern-day political films as it is shot on location partially in Britain but also areas such as Serbia and Montenegro where the story is set in the early 21st Century as if the idea of Roman times is in the modern world. The usage of the locations add to this air of chaos that is happening where Rome is presented as this rich and organized world that is shot on Britain while Volsci and other locations shot in Serbia and Montenegro showcase a world that hasn’t prospered like Rome has. Fiennes’ compositions does have elements of style such as the battle scenes where he presents it with hand-held cameras for close-ups and medium shots including the scene of Coriolanus on a TV show where he goes after his critics including the tribunes who are scheming against him. While there are some wide shots to establish some of the locations as well as scenes involving crowds and in some eerie compositions to play into the position of power. Fiennes does maintain this air of theatricality in the direction with the actors and how would place them into a frame or to create this chaos in the riots.

Even the usage of TV news add to the dramatic elements of the film as it play into Coriolanus’ journey where the third act shows him going mad with vengeance with little chance of seeing reason and make peace. Fiennes’ direction showcases a man on the edge as he is intent on destroying Rome but there are those who love and care about him who want him to stop. The tragedy isn’t just about Coriolanus’ downfall and descent into madness but also the compromises he had to make where Fiennes showcases a man who had put himself into a world that he doesn’t know little about but only to make more enemies than he did when he was just a soldier. Overall, Fiennes craft a riveting and chilling film about a Roman general’s downfall and his revenge against those who ousted him from Rome.

Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd does brilliant work with the film’s grainy digital cinematography as its usage of close-ups add to the grimy detail of the visuals as well as maintaining a drab yet naturalistic look for the scenes set at Volsci. Editor Nicolas Gaster does excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and montages while maintaining some unique rhythm to capture the energy of some of the monologues. Production designer Ricky Eyres, with set decorator Lee Gordon and art director Radoslav Mihajlovic, does amazing work with the look of the Roman government buildings and the home that Coriolanus and his family lives in as well as the drab home base of Aufidius. Costume designer Bojana Nikitovic does fantastic work with the look of the Roman military uniforms as well as the posh clothing of the Coriolanus family that is a sharp contrast to the more rugged look of the Volsci and its people.

Hair/makeup designer Laura Schiavo does terrific work with the look of the scars on Coriolanus’ face and body as well as the tattoos he would later gain. Special effects supervisor Jason Troughton and visual effects supervisor Angela Stanley do some nice work with the look of some of the TV footage along with a few set-dressing for scenes to play into the atmosphere of war. Sound editor Oliver Tarney does superb work with the sound as it play into the raucous atmosphere of the protests, riots, and sounds of war along with the disconcerting tone in some of the dialogue in certain rooms or sets. The film’s music by Ilan Eshkeri is wonderful for its low-key orchestral/ambient score that play into the dramatic suspense as well as some of the film’s war scenes while music supervisor Ian Neil provides a music soundtrack that features a traditional music piece performed by Goran Bregovic as well as a couple of contemporary pieces by Lisa Zane and Sheer K.

The casting by Jina Jay is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Jon Snow as a TV anchorman, Harry Fenn as Coriolanus’ young son Martius, Dragan Micanovic as Coriolanus’ subordinate Titus, Slavko Stimac as a Volsci lieutenant who doesn’t trust Coriolanus, the duo of Lubna Azabal and Ashraf Barhom in their respective roles as leading protestors against Coriolanus in Tamora and Cassius, and John Kani in a terrific performance as Rome’s leader General Cominius who is trying to ensure peace and reason despite so much opposition and controversy. Paul Jesson and James Nesbitt are superb in their respective roles as tribunes Brutus and Sicinius as two political figures who hate Coriolanus as they scheme to discredit him only to put Rome in danger during its second half. Jessica Chastain is fantastic as Coriolanus’ wife Virgilia as a woman trying to be supportive but also raises concern for her husband’s well-being as she also copes with his exile.

Brian Cox is excellent as Menenius as a Roman senator who is close with Coriolanus’ family as he is eager to help Coriolanus anyway he can while having to deal with the opposition as he struggles to maintain order and later to try and reason with Coriolanus in his vengeance towards Rome. Vanessa Redgrave is brilliant as Volumnia as Coriolanus’ mother who is an influential figure in Rome as she encourages her son to go into politics while being very angry at the tribunes who successfully banished him prompting her to get her son back and see reason. Gerard Butler is amazing as Volsci military leader Tullus Aufidius as Coriolanus’ sworn enemy who is hoping to destroy Rome and Coriolanus where he is later moved by Coriolanus’ determination following his exile as he helps him seek revenge on Rome. Finally, there’s Ralph Fiennes in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as a general who is a polarizing figure for his disdain towards common folk while is eager to rise to power only to be kicked out of Rome prompting him to seek vengeance as there’s an intensity to his performance but also an eeriness of a man driven to the edge.

Coriolanus is a marvelous film from Ralph Fiennes that features a great ensemble cast, a modern take on William Shakespeare’s character study, gritty visuals, and themes of ambition and vengeance. It’s a film that explore a man’s descent into madness in his attempt to go into politics only to be banished by the people in his home country as he also endures humility and shame that prompts him to seek revenge but at the cost of his own spirit and soul. In the end, Coriolanus is a remarkable film from Ralph Fiennes.

Ralph Fiennes Film: The Invisible Woman (2013 film) - (The White Crow)

© thevoid99 2019


keith71_98 said...

I was a big fan of this film. It's been a while since I saw it but I remember feeling that it was terribly underseen. I always thought it deserved a bigger audience.

thevoid99 said...

@keith71_98-Having just seen it, I felt it deserved a bigger audience. It had a great cast and a fascinating interpretation of Shakespeare's tragedy. Plus, it makes me wonder why Gerard Butler doesn't do more films like this in favor of shit as watching him in a role like this is now becoming very rare.

Brittani Burnham said...

This film was nowhere on my radar, I've never even heard of it until now. I'll have to check it out.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-It was on HDMovie channel as I was glad it was on during its Oscar marathon as I had it on my DVR and just checked it out.