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This is SHAKESPEARE! - ★★

Ralph Fiennes directorial debut; Coriolanus is certainly full of sound and fury.

We all know the classics, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth so it’s good to see a lesser known of Shakespeare’s work brought to the big screen. However there could be good reason for it being lesser known. The film tells the story of Coriolanus, played here by Voldemort, sorry Ralph Fiennes, a great dictator in every sense of the word, despised by his people and hell-bent on holding on to power. So when Jimmy Nesbitt and the boys give him the old heave-ho, he goes in search of a beard, some hair and his mortal enemy Tullus Aufidius (GERARD BUTLER). They join forces and seek to destroy Rome, but that sneaky Shakespeare isn’t going to make it as easy as that.

The play has a modern-day setting which ties in nicely with the various uprisings last year and those that are still ongoing. It gives the film an extra poignancy with the final scene no doubt a reference to the recent killing of Muammar Gaddafi. The story is straight forward and easy to follow, but with the use of Shakespearean English it takes you that little bit longer to fully penetrate the dialogue and become emotionally involved with the characters. The film reminded me of The Royal Shakespeare Company’s film version of Macbeth from 2001 starring Antony Sher which set the characters in modern military attire.

There is always a danger in filming Shakespeare’s work for film that the intensity of emotions, especially anger and rage merely come across as shouting, and I felt Coriolanus had this in spades. It is also incredibly hard to cast the image of Voldemort from your mind during Fiennes rants, surely a failing on the actor’s part to fully inhabit the role.

Due to the nature of the play there are many of these outbursts taking the testosterone level all the way to 11. There is some balance with an excellent performance from Vanessa Redgrave playing Volumnia but she is more a Lady Macbeth figure directing Coriolanus for her own purposes. The supporting cast of Cox, Nesbitt and Butler are all well-chosen, while the same problem exists for Butler as for Fiennes – you’re just waiting for him to bellow THIS IS ROME!

This is by no means a poor film but with the obscurity of the play a prior knowledge  or an examination of the text would certainly be of benefit to the film.

UK  /  Ralph Fiennes  /   John Logan (and Shakespeare…)  /  Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, Vanessa Redgrave, James Nesbitt  /  122min  Drama, Thriller   /  Release: 20 January 2012 (US, Canada, Ireland, UK)