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CORIOLANUS

Director: Ralph Fiennes

123 minutes, U.K., 2011, Colour, D-Cinema Notes by Trevor Johnston


Ralph Fiennes puts Shakespeare’s saga of Roman conflict on celluloid for the first time in this striking modern-dress interpretation which brings alive one of the Bard’s lesser-known plays. Here the Roman republic is re-imagined in terms of the recent Balkan carnage, all grey battle fatigues, suffering civilians and rolling TV news. Thanks to The Aviator screenwriter John Logan’s astute shaping of the source material, the film provides a compelling context for Shakespeare’s searing portrayal of a ruthless military leader who’s indispensable in times of war but less able to negotiate the political machinations of peacetime.

First-time director Fiennes is at pains to keep the action pacy, but his film works best when putting the fine cast centre stage and letting them rip. Gerard Butler makes a suitably brawny foe as Tullus Aufidius, Vanessa Redgrave is positively terrifying as Coriolanus’ she-wolf of a mother, but Fiennes himself is the standout with his ferocious attack on the central role. This is passionate and urgent filmmaking. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

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