Revitalizing Shakespeare’s least favorite tragedy by shooting great hunks of it as a faux live-feed from CNN with shaky hand-held cameras now looks downright old-fashioned. These days, a period setting in ancient Rome (pre-Emperor Republic days), with togas and lots of road work would look positively refreshing, even radical. Ralph Fiennes stars & directs John Logan’s adaptation of the text, and his stylistic take does clarify issues as Caius Martius (later Coriolanus) wins military battles vs. his implacable foe Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler, game if occasionally tongue-tied). Alas, when he puts himself up to lead the Senate, Coriolanus has all the charm & political savvy of a General George Patton. What future for a man who’d rather be right than Consul? Fortunately, much of the film drops the CNN concept and plays in a sort of timeless no-man’s-land, very effectively, too. Brian Cox is a rock of support as the general’s front man and Vanessa Redgrave really gets something to chew on as a mother who definitely doesn’t know best. If only the modernization didn’t feel so old hat, this might have cracked one of Shakespeare's tougher nuts.
DOUBLE-BILL: To see how this might have come off, try Orson Welles’ much maligned, but highly effective budget abstraction of MACBETH/’48. (Of course, that also died at the turnstile.)
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Oops! Wrote this up about a year back. It happens when I think I’ve seen something on the big screen rather than video. Well, an interesting comparison with only modest variations. Plus, for a change, the later squib is more succinct! (And a slightly cooler poster.)