CORIOLANUS – Review by Susan Granger

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Ralph Fiennes transforms Shakespeare’s war tragedy into a violent, contemporary action-movie, filled with bloody battles and torture scenes.

Basically, the story revolves around Caius Martius Coriolanus (Fiennes), an arrogant, disdainful, patrician General who, pushed by his formidably ambitious, rigidly controlling mother Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave), must ingratiate himself to the common citizens of Rome, whom he despises, in order to become a Consul. When he’s repudiated by the lowly masses, Coriolanus’ anger prompts his expulsion from The Republic, so the outraged, banished warrior then allies himself with his sworn Volscian enemy, Tulus Aufidius (Gerard Butler), to wreak revenge upon the city’s wretched rabble…much to the chagrin of his hapless wife Virgilia (Jessica Chastain) and trusted friend Menenius (Brian Cox).

Working with veteran screenwriter Josh Logan (“The Aviator”), first-time feature director Fiennes reprises the role he played so successfully on the London stage in 2007. Photographed in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, on a handheld, shoestring budget by Barry Ayckroyd (“The Hurt Locker”) and filled with visceral, rapid-fire cuts, it is set in an alternative Roman universe, complete with machine guns and rockets, cars and armored tanks, and riots reported via TV interviews and updates on news channels. The lighting is flat and the actors wear drab fatigues.

With occasional rephrasing, Fiennes retains much of the classic language of The Bard’s dialogue, as scowling, scarred Coriolanus snarls, “You, common cry of curs whose breath I hate as reeks of the rotten fens whose loves I prize like as the dead carcasses of unburied men that do corrupt my air.”

And his vitriolic mother observes, “Before him, he carries noise and, behind him, he leaves tears.”

“My favorite characters – in literature, in drama – are rather high-definition people whose personalities are uncompromising,” Fiennes explains. “I like the idea of setting ‘Coriolanus’ in a world of business suits and cell phones.”

That might also describe Fiennes’ villainous “Harry Potter” character of the slithery, snake-headed Lord Voldemort.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Coriolanus,” like its hero, is a sharp, stubborn 7, aimed at an admiring art-house audience.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.