Forget The Artist, forget War Horse. Forget, even, Sherlock. (Sorry, Mr. Cumberbatch.) Forget them all and go see Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus, which, quite frankly, blows them all out of the water (I’m not just saying this with the snotty pretensions of an English student). I find I have had to resort to trashy language and extreme hyperbole in order to describe just how good this film is. It is a mind-blowing experience. It’s totally amazeballs. It’s truly awesome.
If you haven’t read Shakespeare’s original, don’t worry, just go anyway – there will be time for that later. I can assure you that the material is handled sensitively and intelligently with regard to the original, but fortunately it is also updated in such a way that makes the language and concerns absolutely immediate and instantly accessible. The plot is reconfigured so that it really works as a film-script – particularly through excellent use of newscreen and newsrooms – which makes the film format a coherent whole instead of something which cannot quite escape the disconnect between its current format and the original stage-setting, as is often a risk in translating Shakespearian plays to the big screen. Fiennes’ film is made in tribute, not in servitude, to Shakespeare, and is valid and timely in and of itself; it does not count simply as artistic and critical interpretation of an original text, but it presents us with concerns and themes which are of increasing importance in the world today. Think more McKellen’s Richard III than Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.
This is an incredible directorial début from Fiennes, with unapproachable performances from himself and fellow cast members Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox, not to mention Gerard Butler and James Nesbitt, who are unexpectedly brilliant and, in their individual interpretations of their roles, absolutely vital in updating the issues of Coriolanus to be instantly recognisable in terms of our modern concerns. This film is clear and powerful, and will leave your head spinning. Needless to say that the dialogue is out of this world.