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CORIOLANUS (Alliance, 2011) D: Ralph Fiennes, w/ Fiennes, Gerard Butler. Rating: NNNNN; Blu-ray package: NNN Rating: NNNNN
There isn't a trace of staginess in Ralph Fiennes's production of Coriolanus. It's shot as a contemporary military-political thriller and loaded with kinetic energy via hand-held cameras that catch moments on the fly. The words are Shakespeare's, but they're heavily edited and delivered with complete clarity and the conversational naturalism that only the best actors achieve.
Fiennes is frighteningly intense as the eponymous top Roman soldier. He pushes back the invading Volscians, though their leader, Aufidius (Gerard Butler), his bitterly hated enemy, escapes. Coriolanus's victory wins him high political office, but rival politicians use his arrogance and insistence on being true to himself against him. Meanwhile, Aufidius is stirring.
Coriolanus's relationship with Volumnia, his mother, lies at the heart of the tragedy. Vanessa Redgrave matches Fiennes's ferocity with a mix of patriotic fervour and no-holds-barred emotional manipulation that makes her the scariest movie mother since Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate, though far more complex.
Fiennes's commentary is worthwhile for his views on editing Shakespeare and some plot mechanics, but he's concerned that viewers will struggle with the Bard's language, so he spends much time explaining the obvious.
EXTRAS: Commentary, making-of doc. English audio. English, Spanish subtitles.