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Based on the William Shakespeare play of the same name, Ralph Fiennes directs a modern day retelling of the classic story. Caius Martius ‘Coriolanus’ (Ralph Fiennes) shows outstanding courage and leadership on the field of battle and is much revered but after a public disgrace he is banished from Rome and forms a tentative allying with his greatest enemy, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler).

Coriolanus
Given the combination of Ralph Fiennes and William Shakespeare, it was hard to imagine this project not working. The film, with original Shakespearean dialogue (y’know like in Baz Lurman’s Romeo and Juliet) sits incredibly well in this modern military setting. The cast Fiennes has assembled, including Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave and Jessica Chastain all bring their A-game and somehow everything feels perfectly natural within a few scenes of getting used to the style.

The film often feels quite low budget, with fairly simple visuals and a real sense that the film is more in tune with a stage presentation than a cinematic one. In fact the look of the film feels very much like a Channel 4 style drama in some ways. Slightly above TV standards but never really totally film like, even with the famous folk chewing up the dialogue.

Speaking of chewing up the dialogue, Gerard Butler really gets into this one. I guess it’s something to do with his breakout 300 role but he’s really quite good at this larger than life dialogue. It fits him way more naturally than the more mainstream films he turns up in but then again, most of those have been rom-coms, so anything is an improvement.

As for Fiennes, he has the John Hurt effect here, in that however good people are around him he wades in and owns every moment. He’s intense, menacing and some of the softer dialogue he delivers is totally felt when held up against the more aggressive deliveries. This all creates an incredibly real feeling Shakespearean adaptation. Somehow the dialogue that should feel odd in the modern warfare setting simply doesn’t. It heightens every situation, romanticises the sort of characters we’re used to seeing in war films, without the grand nature of a battle and brings Shakespeare to life in a ways the play would maybe not reach a modern audience.

Coriolanus

Video


The film is largely military green, grey and the odd cool blue doesn’t make for the most exciting of colour palettes but when the deep red of blood arrives it almost springs out of the screen making it a very powerful tool. Adding to that, many scenes are bathed in in mist giving a fairly low budget look to the project that no doubt hides the limitations.

There’s a high level of grain, especially in darker scenes. Blacks are never quite black but instead a deep blue that softens shadows and reduces sharpness and detail and once again the misty look to the battle scenes can also feel quite gritty. On a plus side, this adds a texture to the military scenes that hides the simple sets and adds a modern warfare realism to everything. Light sourcing, is generally quite natural and only seems to be warm in Jessica Chastain's scenes, which softens scenes against the hard edges and cold military aspects of the film.

Coriolanus

Audio


From the first scenes the rear speakers build atmosphere with marching footsteps, crowd chants and a lot of rioting sounds to create an aggressive and powerful soundscape. Gunshots ring out on multiple layers around the front and rear speakers  and rocket launchers and explosions pack a fairly solid thump when they hit.
Dialogue goes from strong and clear to booming, especially from Fiennes and in fights every grunt, groan and roar seems placed with intent. The score is also quite subtly used and often raises the track out of the natural and largely silent moments Fiennes like to play in.

Coriolanus

Extras


The disc opens with trailers for A Dangerous Method, Salmon Fishing in The Yemen and  How I Spent My Summer Vacation.

'Behind the Scenes of Coriolanus with Will Young' (25:29) has the popstar on the set in Serbia. In style, this is a making of that feels in tune with a TV feature that could crop up on The Culture Show or something much more intelligent than that of a usual talking head making of. There's plenty of scene set up footage and talking with the crew and actors.

The audio commentary by Ralph Fiennes is a strong track in regards to having someone tell us the story and expanding on their intentions with the adaptation and it's by a man who obviously understands every move. That said it's slow, a little obvious in places and fairly mumbly. This doesn't make it any less interesting but it can be a bit of a grind at times.

Coriolanus

Overall


Coriolanus is a solid piece of Shakespeare adapting. The modern setting makes the dialogue feel even more important and effortlessly fits the large character driven events with ease. Fiennes approaches directing here much like I would imagine it to play on stage and lacks a certain cinematic flair but given the source material this is probably more out of respect for the play than anything else. The disc has a mixed bag of visuals, a good punchy bit of audio and a couple of decent extras, making this a solid package.


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