Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Rating: 8 Absolute Rants
In a modern adaptation of the Shakespeare story, a warrior returns home from the war to his political execution, banishment, and subsequent betrayal.
It’s a hard one to explain, but if you like that sort of movie, it was quite surprisingly good. Possibly my favorite for the entire film festival, but then I happen to be an avid student of Roman history and culture. With fair warning, yes it is a modern take on an old story, but every single last character in this star-studded film is speaking in the Shakespearian manner, with the “thee” and “thou” and such. Similar to the remake of Romeo and Juliet some time back with Leonardo DiCaprio in speech, but that is where the similarities end – Coriolanus the main character gets that name after he rides into a town and slaughters practically everyone there, the town is called Coreolis, and it’s an honored Roman tradition to take another name stating your accomplishments.
So Caius Martius Coriolanus is warrior unparalleled, and his mother is adamant in her serving the country traditions and Roman honor, though I do question any Roman mother actually serving in the military. (In the movie, Vanessa Redgrave as his mother often runs around in a military uniform like the rest of the men.) Ralph Fiennes is Martius himself, and the way this character rants shows off his acting talents actually a lot better than the versions of Voldemort he was given to play. Then there’s Gerard Butler, all but reprising his role in 300, as the enemy commander Aufidius. He and Martius practically wax poetic, in spit-filled streams of rage even, over just how much they hate eachother. Martius has a wife and son, look at him there all dressed up in a smaller military uniform, how proud he is. And Brian Cox is Senator Menenius, he makes a great insider.
So this new “Rome” is going hungry and the commoners are getting restless. Martius is off at battle, taking out the entire city of Coreolis, and when he returns his mother and friends decide it would be a good idea to put in his name for Consul. For the modern take I suppose it would be like Governor. But there are other Senators completely against his election, and they stir up the commoners against Martius. It doesn’t help that Martius is admittedly a very reserved man, and very adamant in his belief that his military service puts him head and shoulders above the common man he’s supposed to be gaining the support of. Things escalate and culminate in Martius actually being banished from Rome altogether – so what does he do? What any Roman man with only vengeance left to live for does – he joins the other side. Aufidius embraces him just like a brother, this same man he gave shrieking diatribes about earlier, just as heartily as he had hated the man before. And then, as the combined forces are about to march on Rome itself, Martius actually gives a listen to a desperate rant from his mother, wife and son, whom he seemed to have conveniently forgot in his quest for retribution, and manages to broker a peace between the warring countries. That isn’t the end though, oh no. Aufidius just has to have the last word, or act, and feels betrayed in the end at what Martius ended up capitulating with. So Aufidius finally kills him, in an almost Caine and Abel – like act. I can’t help but feel as though Martius really got the raw end of the entire deal here. And I still didn’t see the need for a modern take on this story but with most of the old names and mannerisms kept, that’s just odd. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie and will give it 8 Absolute Rants!