- Ralph Fiennes as Caius Martius Coriolanus
- Gerard Butler as Tullus Aufidius
- Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia
- Brian Cox as Menenius
- Jessica Chastain as Virgilia
- James Nesbitt as Sicinius
- Paul Jesson as Brutus
A visceral, blood-soaked modern-day adaptation of the William Shakespeare tragedy which marks the directorial debut of Ralph Fiennes, Coriolanus proves that Shakespeare is just as relevant today as he has ever been with themes of political manipulation and war.
In a battle ravaged version of Rome, riots are taking place on the streets due to a shortage of food and a brutal war is raging against the neighbouring Volscians. The brilliant Roman general Caius Martius is a vicious and brutal warrior just returning from combat with his old enemy Tullus Aufidius. Upon arrival, he is bestowed with the powerful title of Coriolanus. His ambitious mother Volumnia and influential Senator Menenius persuade him to run for political office, but this doesn’t fair well with Coriolanus as he looks down at the common people and sees them as contemptible. He does however obey his mother and strive for power within the political sphere. Other members of the senate have different ideas about this and begin to incur the wrath of the people who detest his arrogance and slander towards them. This causes them to rise up against the general and he is subsequently banished from Rome as a traitor. Once banished, Coriolanus wanders through the war-torn countryside and comes across his sworn enemy Aufidius. Betrayed by his people and filled with deep rage, Coriolanus forms an unlikely alliance with his old opponent and they plan to take revenge on Rome.
With his directorial debut, Ralph Fiennes brings a gritty realism to the scenes of war and utilises close-ups and dizzying tracking shots to get to the heart of emotion. Updating Shakespeare into a modern context must have provided a challenge, but Fiennes pull it off admirably and shows that the Bard’s work can be applied to modern events just as it is classic events from centuries ago. Admittedly, at first hearing the classical dialogue of Shakespeare spoken in a modern setting can be hard to understand and get used to, but once you become attuned to the words and style the benefits of Coriolanus are deeply rewarding. The score is laced with a militant precision as Coriolanus begins his encroaching plans for revenge with the aid of his old enemy and the impending notion of tragedy.
What really gives Coriolanus its power is the astonishing cast assembled. In the title role, Ralph Fiennes is fierce, arrogant and raging as he changes from ‘man to dragon’ and declares vengeance on Rome. Fiennes gives the role his all and really gets to the heart of this complex character with his powerful delivery and barely contained intensity that radiates from his eyes. Gerard Butler is impressively tough and suspecting as his sworn enemy who becomes an ally. Vanessa Redgrave is brilliant as Volumnia, the autocratic mother of Coriolanus. Ambitious, influential and overly supportive, Redgrave brings a whole range of emotions to the part of this matriarch and speaks her lines with authority and confidence. Her scenes are electrifying with Ralph Fiennes as she attempts to reason with him, whilst also issuing her powerful and domineering hold over her son. Brian Cox is effectively used as a powerful Senator who is firmly on the side of Coriolanus, whilst Jessica Chastain exudes vulnerability and tenderness as Virgilia, the wife of Coriolanus. James Nesbitt and Paul Jesson relish their roles as politicians who succeed in manipulating events so that Coriolanus is banished.
Dramatic, violent and gripping, Coriolanus is Shakespeare updated in visceral and powerful fashion, boasting fantastic performances and assured direction.