Saturday, 27 April 2013
This is a largely enjoyable modernisation of one of Shakespeare's timeless tragedies (I would say it's a generally lesser known or appreciated work yet I believe TS Eliot rated it higher than Hamlet no less) helmed by first time director Ralph Fiennes who equally and impressively takes centre stage before the camera as Coriolanus.
The film preserves the setting of Rome in all but name; it is clear that Fiennes is really concerning himself with the Bosnian conflict of recent years. With his Coriolanus and Brian Cox's Menenius mirroring the relationship of Arkan and Milosevic. The atmosphere and setting is truly gripping, the crumbling granite of war zones beneath grey portentous skies bearing witness to Shakespeare's original dialogue between moments of Black Hawk Down style action.
Despite there being much to enjoy there is also some truly head scratching judgements too, largely in the casting. I had heard reservations about the casting of James Nesbitt, but since his character, Sicinius, is meant to be a smug self promoting weasel I didn't see that as too much of a problem. No, my main complaint was casting Gerard Butler as the leader of the Volscians Aufidius - essentially representing the Bosnian rebels of that conflict - a one note actor whose presence cannot hope to match the incendiary performance from Fiennes and so their circling of one another always seems somewhat ill matched. Worse, his ever 'reliable' mangled vocal delivery does much to destroy and make incoherent both the text's subtle nuances and most powerful statements.
Still, there is far more reliable and staunch support from the likes of Vanessa Redgrave who is utterly jaw dropping as Fiennes mother, the aforementioned Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, Paul Jesson, John Kani etc and even Channel 4's Jon Snow pops up - That was fun! I can well imagine this enlivening English lessons in schools up and down the country.