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Coriolanus: Updated Shakespeare Tragedy
Taking cues from films such as Baz Luhermann’s Romeo + Juliet, Coriolanus is a Shakespearean tragedy, set in modern times. It may require a bit more concentration than regular films but it’s a treat hearing the prose just roll off of the tongues of trained actors.
The film takes place in Rome and tells the story of an army general by the name of Caius Martius Coriolanus (Fiennes). Stern, violent and anti social, he was nonetheless considered a hero by the people of Rome. When he decided to run for Consul however, his detractors used his rigidity against him and sparked a riot that had him banished from the city. In revenge, he teams up with his mortal enemy, Aufidius (Butler), leader of the Volscian army, to wreak havoc on the people who dared deem him a traitor.
Maybe because he isn’t hidden behind a ton of makeup and because this time around he has a nose, but Fiennes is more deranged in this role than he was as Lord Voldemort, and that’s saying something. He has an intensity that poor Butler, as his adversary, just can’t hope to match even though he does do a pretty good job regardless. In fact, the acting here is uniformly strong, but Fiennes is simply phenomenal. The only people capable of going toe to toe with him are Chastain, who plays his wife, and Redgrave, who plays his brutally chilling mother.
On the one hand the film analyses the connection between what the public wants from their politicians and the personas that said politicians present to them. Unlike every other politician in Rome, Coriolanus refuses to sugar-coat his words and openly declares his loathing of the people. His stubborn, idealistic nature greatly complicates his transition from the battlefield to the senate much to the chagrin of his mother - who’s probably even colder and more terrifying than he is. He’s a very ambiguous character and it’s this that gives the film much of its depth. He’s a bloodthirsty tyrant just like his mother yet also a bundle of intense emotions, be it love or disdain.
The film is a complete blood bath which shouldn’t come as a surprise in a film about an army general, but the intensity pervading the film takes the fights to another level. The Romans and Vulscians have a ‘fight or die trying approach’ to war directly inspired by their leaders’ complete contempt for their own lives. And while the cinematography captures the fight scenes really well - Aufidius and Coriolanus’ one-on-one fights are particularly thrilling - it does even better with the rest of the film. The protest scenes feel utterly contemporary and give the film a sense of immediacy; no mean feat when you’re speaking in Shakespearean English.
It’s not a perfect film but it's close and the acting, Fiennes in particular, is as close to perfect as you can get. Despite that though, the film’s main strength lies in the fact that it updates the play and makes it completely relevant to modern audiences. The themes that the play covers are ones that play out in our political arenas every day and it makes for absolutely riveting viewing.
From Chucky in Child’s Play to the Clown doll in Poltergeist, there’s nothing there’s nothing quite as creepy as silent doll coming to life as a sort of a blood-thirsty monster. Sadly, the The Boy is not as scary as you its premise promises and, although relatively high on the creep-front, it doesn’t fully realise its ambitious ideas and get to the end without stumbling over.
The plot tells of Greta Evans (The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan), who in escaping an abusive relationship decides to leave her home in Montana, U.S.A, heads to rural England, where she’s to work as a nanny for elderly couple, Mr. Heelshires (Norton) and Mrs. Heelshires (Hardcastle) at their country house to care for their eight-year-old son, Brahms.
However, when she gets there, Greta is shocked to learn that Brahms is no ordinary boy, but in fact a life-size porcelain doll. At first, Greta is taken back by the discovery and thinks that she’s part of some sort of prank, but she quickly realises that the pained-looking couple treat the doll as their son and even provide Greta with a strict set of rules that she must follow if she is to care for him well. Naturally, it doesn’t take long before a series of strange events begin to occur around the house when the Heelshires leave her to go on their well-deserved break, forcing Greta – along with the help of potential love interest, Malcom (Evans) – to look into Brahms’ troubled and shady past.
While there are a couple of genuinely creepy moments of terror to recall, The Boy mostly relies on its mood – impressively restrained at first and unsurprisingly threadbare towards the end – and the predictable jump-scares to indeed make you jump nonetheless. Turning what is often a refreshingly subdued and an atmospheric film into a dreadfully insipid story of a creepy life-size porcelain doll and its predictably helpless nanny – Cohan is not as terrible as one might think - the suspense surrounding Brahms is conveyed in a relatively convincing way.
However, the sheer ridiculousness that unravels within some of the scenes takes the shine off the film, so to speak, even inciting an unintentional laugh or two. This is no more apparent than with an equally ridiculous third-act twist, which seems motivated only by setting up a sequel.
Inspired by Casey Sherman and Michael J Tourgias’ 2009 non-fiction book, The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue, Craig Gillespie’s rescue-drama is an occasionally compelling film, but bearing in mind this is supposed to be the retelling of one of the greatest sea rescues in the history of sea rescues, the end-result is a little flatter and isn’t distinguished as one might expect.
Taking place on 1952, off the coast of Massachusetts, a raging storm has caused two oil tankers - the SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton – to split in half. While most of the rescue boats have been deployed to assist the Mercer, the crew on Pendleton - led by the first assistant engineer, Ray Sybert (Affleck) – weren’t able to send out a rescue signal and are now left at the mercy of the sea.
Meanwhile on land, docile-looking Coast Guard captain, Bernie (Pine) has been given instructions by his commanding officer, Daniel (Bana) to undertake the risky rescue-mission after the Pendleton’s location is discovered. Aware of the consequences, Bernie, along with a handful of men, heads out into the stormy night.
What keeps The Finest Hours afloat, so to speak, is the fact that it’s inspired by real-life events – this in itself gives the plot a sense of gravitas. If this was a fictional plot, however, it would have been thrown out long before it reached the big screen, despite, for the most part, telling its story in a relatively compelling and capable manner.
The problem is that it’s all a little run-of-the-mill. Giving the subjects of loyalty and bravery the classic, melodramatic Hollywood touch, the familiarity of the story is inviting, yes, but it’s also highly derivative and predictable. In addition, the nautical jargon used in the film is confusing and keeping up with the technicalities distracts from the human elements of the plot.
However, the film’s biggest setback comes with the decision to screen it in 3D, which is not only distracting, but also terribly disorienting; most of the film takes place at night, so trying to keep up with what’s going on is almost impossible.
The performances offered by what is a solid cast, meanwhile, are engaging enough to keep things balanced – Pine is surprisingly reserved but affective, while Affleck shines as the skilful engineer. Overall, though, it’s just not strong or heartfelt enough to keep its head above water (sorry, we can’t help it) and deliver a story which fitting of its real-life story.