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136 of 147 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent film
This is a tight, well-crafted script by John Logan. Cutting Shakespeare can be difficult and he did an excellent job, along with Ralph Fiennes of getting us the information we need to follow the story while still keeping us interested.

Fiennes is very, very good in this. His intensity blazes throughout, as a soldier's soldier and a man with little to connect...
Published on December 21, 2011 by Adam

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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Modern Shakespeare
Ralph Fiennes directed a movie, set in contemporary world based on Shakespeare's play "Coriolanus". It goes without saying that Shakespeare' work transcendes time and it is universal to every era. This play is no different. Coriolanus is a Roman warrior who dedicates his life and career to defending Rome from foreign invaders. He has it all: a beautiful wife and son,...
Published on May 29, 2012 by Eugenia


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136 of 147 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent film, December 21, 2011
This review is from: Coriolanus (DVD)
This is a tight, well-crafted script by John Logan. Cutting Shakespeare can be difficult and he did an excellent job, along with Ralph Fiennes of getting us the information we need to follow the story while still keeping us interested.

Fiennes is very, very good in this. His intensity blazes throughout, as a soldier's soldier and a man with little to connect him to the people outside of his comfort zone--aka the battlefield.

Vanessa Redgrave is, as always, compelling as Volumnia. She will definitely be up for some awards for this performance.

Just to comment on the first post made--

This movie is nothing at all like Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet. Luhrmann's film was Shakespeare on acid [i very much liked that film as well]. This is something completely different. Simply labeling it 'a grown up R&J' does a disservice to Coriolanus. Just because it's modernized doesn't make it similar, at all.

It is Shakespeare, so for the first few minutes while you're getting used to the language it will throw you off. But the actors are so skilled in this film they make sense of the text for you, so you can understand and enjoy the use of Shakespeare's language. There are some wonderful soliloquies in the movie as well. If you don't like Shakespeare or you don't want to pay attention, don't see it, simple as that.
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78 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars His pride, his fall, February 4, 2012
By 
Edward (San Francisco) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Coriolanus (DVD)
Shakespere's late military drama "Coriolanus" is rarely staged. Perhaps the most famous modern production was at Stratford-upon-Avon: during the run Olivier injured himself in his spectacular death scene and had to be replaced the next performance by a young Albert Finney, leaping into stardom. To my knowledge the new movie version is the first time the tragedy has been filmed, and a very impressive début it is. Ralph Fiennes, who seems to have made a career playing aloof patronising men (Eugene Onegin, et al), is making his own directorial début, guiding himself in a strong performance as the fatally disdainful patrician. He has placed the 5th Century BCE story in our own 21st Century with almost depressing relevance: the military invasion, the political back-stabbings, the bloody assassination are all alarmingly suitable. Most of the violence is presented in the opening sequence, as the Romans storm Carioli and Caius Marcius single-handedly defeats the citadel, earning himself the honorific title Coriolanus. Both Carioli and Rome seem to be suffering inner-city blight as filmed by cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, but, considering the bleakness of this story, his neorealistic vision is apt. The acting of Fiennes's supporting cast is also realistic, no one attempting a "grand" style, yet remaining faithful to Shakespeare's expression. Brian Cox is especially good as Menenius, and his scenes with the two conspirators played by James Nesbitt and Paul Jesson are some of the best in the picture. (By the way, during the crawl credits at the end, we learn that two of the Roman citizens have been christened Cassius and Tamora, dark characters from other tragedies.) Vanessa Redgrave is Volumnia and gives the part a great deal of stern dignity, never allowing her formidable character to become nasty. Volumnia is first and foremost a mother. (Interesting note: Miss Redgrave, who is the daughter of Sir Michael Redgrave, has yet to become Dame Vanessa. She is, of course, a political activist.) Gerard Butler, as Aufidius, is the only cast member who seems to be slightly out of sync, though his hunky presence makes him a believable warrior. The picture is only about two hours long, so needless to say a lot of Bard has been excised; but John Logan's screenplay retains enough of the plot and poetry to make this a worthy Shakespearean production.
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55 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Corruption, Oppression And Warfare: This Shakespearean Interpretation Seems Incredibly Modern And Relevant, May 29, 2012
This review is from: Coriolanus (Amazon Instant Video)
NOTE: The dialogue in this film is NOT in contemporary English, but taken from actual Shakespearean text. DO NOT PURCHASE THE FILM UNLESS YOU KNOW THIS!

A lot of people have attempted modern, updated or anachronistic interpretations of Shakespeare's great works. While some have been fantastic, just as many have fallen short of their potential. It's really about finding the right contemporary setting in which to locate the piece. For my money, 1995's "Richard III" (headlined and scripted by Ian McKellen and set in war torn England during the second World War) is one of my all time favorites. Truthfully, I've read my share of Shakespeare but "Coriolanus" is not one of the plays I was familiar with--here it is adapted by three time Oscar nominated screenwriter John Logan. I think this probably serves Ralph Fiennes' interpretation quite well, it is not as overworked as other Shakespeare offerings. Fiennes takes the directorial reins and stars in "Coriolanus" and the result seems incredibly timely and powerful. With much of our world engaged in ongoing civil strife, this narrative plays to the identifiable concepts of government corruption, oppression and insurrection, and military coups and guerilla warfare. Seriously, it's as if it was written today! I guess some things never go out of style.

"Coriolanus" opens up as a Roman General (Fiennes) staves off the invading forces of an opposing army led by Gerald Butler. But Fiennes, despite his service, is not a beloved figure. Although he tries to abide by the needs of his advisers/allies (chiefly Brian Cox and James Nesbitt), his domineering mother (Vanessa Redgrave), and his faithful wife (Jessica Chastain), he seems unable to appease the demands of the oppressed masses. Revolution is in the air, and Fiennes is betrayed by everything he has sworn to uphold. Cast out, his loyalties shift and his thoughts of revenge grow. This being Shakespeare, you know you're headed to some final bloody confrontations before we can determine where true allegiances lie. This nightmarish vision is filled with graphic violence, realistic warfare, and truly great performances. For those that get put off by the difficulty of the language, this is a surprisingly accessible and understandable film. It's gritty and in-your-face, and it's easy to get caught up in the action even if the Shakespearean dialect frightens you.

Fiennes gives himself one of the best roles he's had in years. He proves, once again, why he is an A-list talent despite some of the parts he's accepted lately. It's nice to see Butler try to stretch as an actor, he's fine if not particularly revelatory. Brian Cox is always a welcome addition. He stands as the calm within the storm while James Nesbitt perfects an oily and untrustworthy menace. Jessica Chastain (2011's busiest actress) doesn't have a lot to do, but the great Vanessa Redgrave gives a towering performance. In the end, this is a classic tragedy that seems incredibly believable and modern. It's very well made and plays largely as an action epic. A great experiment that really works, this is an easy recommendation for adult audiences. About 4 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 5/12.
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50 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant retelling of Shakespeare's tale, January 29, 2012
This review is from: Coriolanus (DVD)
Ralph Fiennes' "Coriolanus" is magnificently staged, well-acted, and retains the beauty of Shakespeare's language even while it adeptly moves it into a modern setting and away from its origins as a play.

The formidable task of both directing and acting in a Shakespeare play has attracted previous talents such as Orson Welles ("Macbeth", "Othello") and Kenneth Branagh ("Hamlet", "Much Ado About Nothing") and the results have not always been positive. But Fiennes rises to the task, giving us a powerful and unrepentant Coriolanus even as he gets great performances from his cast and keeps the action moving.

Adapting Shakespeare to modern tastes is even more difficult that directing and acting in the play. The choice to place Ian McKellen's "Richard III" (1995) into a 1930s fascist world was not entirely successful, nor was Tim Blake's 2001 "O". OTOH, "West Side Story" was certainly a crowd pleaser even if it didn't stay true to the language, and Al Pacino's 1996 semi-documentary "Looking for Richard" was surprisingly good.

Coriolanus is one of the least popular of Shakespeare's plays and one that is rarely performed. Despite the exquisiteness of the language and the skewering of the mob and politicians alike, the central problem of the play is the lack of a hero to cheer for. Even the dourest of Shakespeare's histories and tragedies have someone to cheer for, but Coriolanus is distinctly lacking anyone worthy of sympathy among the first tier.

Fiennes is not the first person you'd think of to play the warrior general. His Oscar nominated performances in "The English Patient" (1996) and "Schindler's List" (1993) show none of the character traits Fiennes brings to bear in his powerful performance.

Vanessa Redgrave stars opposite Fiennes as Coriolanus' mother Volumnia, and she gives us yet another of her strong performances, something we've come to expect from the 6 times Oscar nominee and 2 times Emmy winner. For her role here she was nominated for awards in London, New York, and San Francisco film festivals.

Brian Cox puts in a film stealing performance as Fiennes only political ally, Menenius. Cox won an Emmy for "Nuremberg" (2000) and a BAFTA for "The Escapist" (2008), but he's probably best known for his work in the first two "Bourne" films. Quite frankly I've never seen him give a poor performance, and my favorites are "Braveheart" (1995) and "The Long Kiss Goodnight" (1996).

Kudos to Paul Jesson and James Nesbitt as the sleazy politicians who bring about Coriolanus' banishment and to Ashraf Bahom and Lubna Azabal as the leaders of the mob.

In addition to Fiennes' direction, the photography by Barry Ackroyd is stunning. The hand held close ups that frame many of the scenes may distract some viewers, but it's part of the formula that moves this play into a full scale movie. Ackroyd is the Oscar nominated cinematographer from "The Hurt Locker" (2008) and he handles the war scenes in this film with comparable aplomb.

Ray Beckett handles the sound and in a film like this, the sound is critical. Beckett won an Oscar for his work on "The Hurt Locker" (2008) and he is even more impressive here.

The only disappointment is Gerald Butler, as Aufidius, the leader of Rome's chief foe. Butler can be compelling in films like "300" (2006) and "Reign of Fire" (2002), but his thick Scottish accent is not suited to Shakespeare, and in his more heated speeches he is nearly unintelligible.

The NY Times called Fiennes "thrilling" and he earned a BAFTA nomination for his directing efforts. The Hollywood Reporter said "Ralph Fiennes makes Shakespeare modern and bloody brilliant" and Peter Travers in The Rolling Stone said "the power of the piece is undeniable."

Bottom line - an excellent film.

(Caution - if you're not familiar with the play, or the history, you might want to do some homework before jumping in)
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Modern Shakespeare, May 29, 2012
This review is from: Coriolanus (DVD)
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Ralph Fiennes directed a movie, set in contemporary world based on Shakespeare's play "Coriolanus". It goes without saying that Shakespeare' work transcendes time and it is universal to every era. This play is no different. Coriolanus is a Roman warrior who dedicates his life and career to defending Rome from foreign invaders. He has it all: a beautiful wife and son, mother who is patriotic, loyal to the family (and controlling to say the least). Marcus Coriolanus has potential to become a powerful politician. But his patriotism is matched by his sense of entitlement of his class status for greater things, which in turn creates resentment from his political enemies. His enemies turn ordinary people against Corealanus and before long, Marcus' career comes to a screeching holt and Marcus Coriolanus finds himself in exile. Nations and people who were his enemies yesterday become his allies tomorrow and Marcus sets on a mission to get his revenge.

There are some big name actors in this movie and really fine performances by them all. But contemporary setting (in war ravaged eastern Europe) seems to poor match for fine english language of the screenplay. The entire film is made in Serbia (Belgrade and Pozarevac) and some scenes were shot in Montenegro. Camera seems to be a little bit shakey at times and sound of the film is uneven. I would say that film like this one is aquired taste. If one is in a mood for a play that can be watched at home instead of being seen in a theatre, this is a perfect movie. But for audience unaccustomed to Shakesperian language, film may appear to be a drag. I personally liked it. However, I feel that this sort of genre is not meant for wide audiences.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly intelligent direction, June 3, 2012
By 
studioprod. "Roberts" (Haverhill, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Coriolanus (Amazon Instant Video)
This movie features a sterling cast and topnotch production values, but what truly stands out is Fiennes as a director. The clever use of crawls on the TV screen, banners and graffiti helped to narrow the gap between Elizabethan English and McDonald's Happy Meal English.

Everything from the lighting effects to the percussive music underscored the emotion. We already knew he was a fine actor but, in Coriolanus, Fiennes showed himself to be an intelligent director dealing with one of Shakespeare's more difficult plays. I look forward to his next directorial attempt.

Another standout was Brian Cox' spot on performance. Is there nothing that man cannot do?
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb blend of old and new, June 3, 2012
By 
CCGlazier (Cape Cod, MA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Coriolanus (Amazon Instant Video)
I'm puzzled over the negative reviews. Being Shakespeare, the film obviously requires far more attention and consideration than your average Hollywood popcorn-flick. This isn't "Die Hard" or the "Terminator" franchise. Don't look for that there. In my opinion, this hybrid of modern setting and original dialog isn't some gimmicky revision, but brings clarity and relevance to the story. The acting is superb, the cinematography solid, the cadence, rhythm and potency of Shakespeare's lines even more remarkable.

I'd highly recommend this to anyone with a shred of interest in the Bard, and will purchase a copy for my personal collection.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting attempt, June 30, 2013
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This review is from: Coriolanus (DVD)
In theory I support any effort to make Shakespeare relevant: sometimes this involves moving the play forward; sometimes backward. This version attempts to move the play forward...

Unfortunately here I don't think it really works. The actors are all good, I'm okay with the script and editing (it's a necessary evil for modern audiences), but it doesn't quite fit. There were exceptions: I thought moving some of the marketplace scenes to television studios worked really well; I suspect this was at least in part the idea that inspired this adaptation.

But some of the other scenes are going to be nonsensical to a modern audience; the scene of Coriolanus hitchhiking I thought was hilarious. When was the last time you heard of a fallen dictator hitchhiking his way out of town? ;) But the best example is the custom of a Roman consul candidate appearing in public to show his scars and beg the popular support of the people; this scene is critical to the original play, but I don't think it works here as Fiennes appearing in a suit surrounding by bodyguards. We just don't have a custom like that, and I think people unfamiliar with the original play aren't going to get what is supposed to be going on here.

My last criticism would be, I said all the actors were good, but Fiennes seems to totally miss the character. I suppose he was trying to update it, but in playing Coriolanus as a one-dimensional hate monger you miss the whole tragedy of the play. Where is the tragedy in this movie? Does anyone sympathize with Coriolanus as he dies? Or are we supposed to feel like he finally got what's coming to him? In the original play, the tragedy comes from the fact that Coriolanus was raised by mother to be honest and noble, Rome praised him for it, then when it wasn't expedient to them they all cast him off. Was it his flaws, given him by those in power, that we are to blame? Or do we blame him, for not being able to change (when he needed to)?

But where is this in this version? What we get from Fiennes is a one-dimensional tyrant who seems to care for no one, only full of bile and hate, until he finally cries when he mother screams at him at the end. Was that supposed to flip our opinion of him? What a modern adaptation of this play really needs is some way to redeem Coriolanus to modern eyes, as he would not have appeared to an Elizabethan audience as the despicable tyrant that he appears to be here.

So I like the actors, I thought they did passing well with the text, I love to see Shakespeare attempted in new ways, but unfortunately, for me, this one doesn't really work. Unfortunately, I say, because that leaves us with only the old BBC version to watch... but if you want to see Shakespeare done well you can watch any production done by the Globe (Henry IV is very good, or As You Like It), or if you prefer something updated I recommend 10 Things I Hate About You or Shakespeare in Love.
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Boilingly intense Fiennes in lo-glam tragedy, January 17, 2012
This review is from: Coriolanus (DVD)
First-time director Ralph Fiennes has certainly set himself a challenge.

Not only has taken on Shakespeare, never a straightforward prospect for conversion to celluloid, but one of the less well-known tragedies at that, and one notably short of famous scenes and quotable quotes. He's also modernised the staging to boot and, to top it all off, has directed himself in the leading role. This last feat is you'd have to imagine to be a logistical challenge at least (and .... action! [cue director dashing into the frame]) and one where that key creative tension, between conductor and principal soloist, is eschewed. In a Shakespearian tragedy, of course, you can almost imagine it being achieved by soliloquy.

It might as well be: soliloquies, a staple of the bard's "glamour" tragedies, are otherwise in short supply here. Caius Martius' tragic flaw is precisely that he doesn't much go in for them: Martius is a warrior, given to the unsentimental prosecution of convictions. This is a character trait with little use for interior monologue.

Martius' principles - pride, as rendered in the Shakespearian discourse - sees him unwilling to compromise by lionising either himself or his public, even for the sake of good order. He is, therefore, acutely vulnerable to snakish political schemers of the senate like the unctuous Sicinius (James Nesbit, cast entirely with type) who will make such compromises, and who rightly perceive Martius' unflexing virtue as a threat to their hegemony.

As I've not seen or read Coriolanus before I may be displaying my unschooled ineptitude when I say there are surprising parallels with the story of Christ - a character of similarly unswerving principle, albeit given to peace and love in place of Coriolanus' mortal combat. Like Christ, Coriolanus is embraced and then rejected by a fickle public, whipped up by mendacious politicians. Like Christ he spends forty days in the wilderness finding his resolve. Like Christ he is finally sacrificed in the name of his principle. In other respects he is a dark inversion, of course, which is why this is a tragedy and the new Testament is not. Coriolanus dies for no-one's sins but his own.

Fiennes' presentation is impressive indeed, particularly for a debutant. The modern day staging, complete with steadycam footage, switches between a complacent and vaguely Berlusconian Roman senate, and the war-torn streets of Antium which are more like Belgrade (not so surprising, as that's where the movie was filmed!), and is always strikingly captured: the scenes of military combat are as brutal and well-staged as Generation Kill. The scarcely (but definitely) adapted16th century language jars at first, but in the mouths of the leads, those dissonances quickly subside. The supporting cast is less convincing with it.

Indeed, the main acting is superb. Fiennes is ragingly, boilingly intense: not for an instant do you doubt his emotion, and I fancy he would have been a grumpy so-and-so on the set to boot: you can't switch that sort of intensity on and off. So too is the elegant, nowadays elderly, Vanessa Redgrave as Martius' mother Volumnia (which sounds like a joke name of Monty Python's devising), and scottish dreamboat Gerard Butler plays Martius' less-flawed nemesis Aufidius with power and poise, not a million miles from his portayal of Leonidas in 300.

If I have reservations they are with the screenplay, which surely has had to make some concessions for staging and length, and struggles to adequately convey the development of a typically convoluted Shakespearian plot. It is not helped by the play's lack of familiar Shakespearian staging posts: there is no "a kingdom for my horse" moment, and as a result there are lengthy patches where plot exposition, delivered by supporting actors in marble-mouthed pentameter, gets mangled. It is useful to have boned up on the synopsis beforehand. By contrast, with due credit to Fiennes, there are some purely visual segments (particularly during Martius' march to exile) which are strikingly effective and benefit from being free from Shakespeare's idiom.

The film, over all, is never less than watchable, and is punctuated by electric exchanges between Fiennes, Redgrave, Butler and the ever-brilliant Brian Cox, so this imperfect film comes nonetheless well recommended.

Olly Buxton
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant directorial debut for Fiennes!, May 28, 2012
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This review is from: Coriolanus (DVD)
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I admit that a modern version of a lesser known Shakespeare play did not sound like a great idea to me. (To be honest, my first thought was of the film _Trekkies_ where William Shatner is trying produce a rap version of "Julius Caesar." He performs it at the end of the show, and it is actually pretty good, but I digress ...)

I could not have been more wrong. This film was absolutely amazing! After watching Fiennes as Voldemort in Harry Potter, I grimaced when he came into the first shot. But, when Fiennes spoke, he had an incredible presence. His cadence, body language, diction, and all of the intangibles that go into acting were "spot on" for his role.

The fourteen year old I watched it with was also absolutely rapt. (That is worth five stars no matter what!)

Fiennes stars as one of two principal point of view characters as General Caius Martius. Martius is a hard nosed, professional soldier with little regard for pacifying or playing to the masses.

His counterpoint is revolutionary Aufidius played by Gerard Butler. Whereas Fiennes rightly plays Martius by "chewing on the scenery," Gerard Butler does a fantastic job by playing a very understated Aufidius.

The film is an extremely close match to the play, and we see Martius rise, fall, rise again, only to be betrayed and murdered in the end.

Roll the credits!

This film is brilliant, and most watchers will be pleasantly surprised.

I highly recommend it.

In service,

Rich
The Original Dr. Games since 1993
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Coriolanus
Coriolanus by Ralph Fiennes (DVD - 2012)
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