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.
Run time: 123 mins
In Theaters: Friday 20th January 2012
Box Office USA: $0.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $1.1M
Distributed by: The Weinstein Company
Production compaines: Hermetof Pictures, Magna Films, Icon Entertainment International, Lipsync Productions, BBC Films, Kalkronkie, Atlantic Swiss Productions, Artemis Films, Synchronistic Pictures, Lonely Dragon
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 125 Rotten: 10
IMDB: 6.1 / 10
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Screenwriter: John Logan
Starring: Gerard Butler as Tullus Aufidius, Ralph Fiennes as Caius Martius Coriolanus, Lubna Azabal as First Citizen (Tamora), Ashraf Barhom as Second Citizen (Cassius), Jessica Chastain as Virgilia, Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia, James Nesbitt as Tribune Sicinius, Brian Cox as Menenius
One of the strongest action thrillers in recent years, this gripping movie cleverly casts actors...
Meryl Streep is having so much fun playing an ageing rocker that the audience only...
Like James Bond, wilfully anonymous driver Frank Martin is reborn as a new actor without...
Like an antidote to vacuous blockbusters, this intelligent, thoughtful drama packs more intensity into a...
This biopic gallops through the career of groundbreaking gangsta rappers N.W.A, working its way through...
Basically the perfect summer movie, this lightweight drama has a great-looking cast and plenty of...
As the ghoul from the 2012 horror hit stalks a new family, this sequel's sharply...
After setting the scene with vivid characters and some insightful interaction, the plot of this...