Monday, December 17, 2012


My reaction after sitting through the end credits to Coriolanus had me remember how my high-school-Macbeth-reading-self felt challenged by Shakespeare's dialogue. The opposite had happened with this experience as it certainly helps to have an incredible cast spouting the words with every emotion appearing livid on their face and in how they presented the dialogue's syntax. The language almost compliments the material and makes this fictitious world, in which the play is adapted into, feel accessible. Its director and lead actor, Ralph Fiennes, was able to work with John Logan's highly imaginative script and find a way for the language to make sense. There are modern allegories to certainly be made about government and class, but there is also a fantastic character study at the heart of it all. I'm reminded of why I've liked cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare whether it be literal (Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet") or otherwise ("The Lion King" or "10 Things I Hate About You").

Logan has come up with having Rome and Volsci as two warring countries set in what could easily be the doomsday scenario of having a society exist if the Cold War had turned hot in Europe. The media, the government, and the royal family are all recognizeable to our modern sensibilities, but Fiennes intertwines that with a careful eye into Shakespeare's tale of Coriolanus along with astonishingly gritty and hyper-realistic cinematography from Barry Aykroyd (The Hurt Locker). It's an inspired film about a man's ambitions and the ambitions of those around him in the name of many things, but the casting also finds a way to further flesh out the world. It's so great to see so many great actors (Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave, Gerard Butler, Jessica Chastain, Brian Cox) diving fearlessly into such strong and inspired material. The way in which they bounce off each other even if one of them is just giving a monologue as the other listens creates such a lively and empowered scene. 

Like the written word, language, and style on which this film is based and along with such stimulating choices by the filmmakers, it isn't an understatement to say that Coriolanus feels like a master-class in how to draw someone into a world of just pure drama and continue to do with each passing scene. For such a dialogue-heavy feature, I'm at a loss for where I should begin to describe the intensive and inquisitive mood that the film left me in as a completely surprised viewer.

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