“CORIOLANUS” My rating: B- (Opening Jan. 20)
122 minutes | MPAA rating: R
The rarely-performed plays of Shakespeare pose a problem for film adaptations. Lacking the familiar plots and Bartlett’s-heavy dialogue of a “Macbeth” or “Hamlet,” these minor works force filmmakers to come up with a creative presentational style if they’re to hook a modern audience.
With that in mind, director/star Ralph Fiennes makes of Shakespeare’s Roman play “Coriolanus” a modern-dress political fable about patriotism, loyalty and class warfare.
It’s quite well acted and if the text itself isn’t terribly compelling, the movie’s semi-documentary visual style and the political parallels Fiennes draws between ancient Rome and our own time engage both the eye and the intellect.
The plot centers on the Roman general Caius Martius (Fiennes), who has defeated the rebel forces of Aufidius (Gerard Butler). For his great victory the Senate renames him Coriolanus and names him Consul of Rome. But before getting the job the newly-named Coriolanus must gain the approval of the citizenry. And that’s no small task, since he’s an aloof patrician who views everyday Romans as worthless rabble. Early in the film we see him turning back starving rioters who have attacked a government warehouse demanding to be fed.