DIRECTOR: Ralph Fiennes | WRITERS: John Logan, William Shakespeare | CAST: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave | UK
I may have had good reasons to fear that Coriolanus, starring and directed by Ralph Fiennes, might be an embarrassing vanity production, but it did not turn out to be the case. Ralph Fiennes is a particularly effective Coriolanus, ill-tempered and dripping with contempt for the lower classes, proud of his martial heritage and his own military triumphs. His directing is almost as sure-handed and his instincts are good ones, such as putting the film in modern dress and setting it in a war-torn Italy that resembles Bosnia during the Serbian-Bosnian war, or Baghdad during the height of the American conflict. Regrettably, most of the play was cut in favor of action scenes which are admittedly expertly blocked and shot; just enough of Shakespeare’s language is retained to give an idea of what a powerful play this is. Volumnia, Coriolanus’ icy mother and one of my favorite Shakespeare female characters, is played by Vanessa Redgrave. I had thought she’d be magnificent in the role but I was disappointed: she turns down the volume and intensity (perhaps so as not to upstage Fiennes’ Coriolanus?) a bit too much; I was never afraid of her, surely a bad sign for a Volumnia. The other actors are mostly pretty good with the exception of Gerard Butler as Aufidius, Coriolanus’ longtime implacable enemy: he’s awful. I probably enjoyed the movie more than was warranted just because I love the play so much and because Fiennes’ acting is so good, but so be it.