Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Coriolanus (2011)

Caius Martius (Ralph Fiennes) is a great Roman leader and fearless warrior for the Republic.  When an uprising by the Volscians, led by Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler), threatens Rome, the Senate sends Caius Martius to dispatch the threat.  He does so, earning even greater admiration and the cognomen of "Coriolanus".  At the prompting of his mother, he accepts the nomination for consul and effortlessly wins the post.  However, two Senators plot to turn popular opinion against Coriolanus and succeed in banishing him from Rome.  Now an exile, he tracks down Tullus Anfidius, joins his army, and fights to bring Rome to its knees.

Coriolanus is based on a later play by William Shakespeare, but one that I was unfamiliar with until I saw a trailer a couple months back.  As with a lot of Shakespeare movies in the past 20 years, the filmmakers updated the setting to the modern era, but kept The Bard's famous language.  Indeed, the modern setting works well with the war theme, and the battle scenes are on par with many recent war movies (Blackhawk Down, The Hurt Locker).

Caius Martius is one of the less chatty Shakespearean heroes you'll come across.  He's not given to soliloquy like Macbeth or Hamlet, and he rarely speaks to his motives.  One aspect of his character that fascinated me was he couldn't accept praise from others (he left the Senate chamber when Menenius recounted tales of his brave deeds against the Volscians), but his pride is his downfall.  After the public turns on him, he launches into a diatribe against popular rule. He compares allowing plebeians to have power over the patricians to allowing "crows to peck the eagles". Coriolanus is condemned as a traitor for his words, and is ordered to be banished. Coriolanus retorts that it is he who banishes Rome from his presence.

Like I said, the war scenes are well done.  There are some fabulous performances by Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave (as Coriolanus's mother), and the ever smarmy Brian Cox as Menenius. Butler doesn't get much to do besides be physical, which he does well.

Not the greatest Shakespeare adaptation, but not a bad little movie.  Check out the IMDB link above and watch the trailer.  If it looks like something that would strike your fancy, check it out.

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