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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.
James Watkins’ 2012’s The Woman in Black – led by one Daniel Radcliffe – was named one of the best British horror films of the past twenty years, so it comes as no surprise that a sequel, The Woman in Black 2 – a dreary follow-up which unfortunately fails to re-capture the mood and tone of the original – was quickly set to follow.
Directed by Tom Harper, The Woman in Black 2 is set forty-years after the events of its predecessor and plays out against the backdrop of WWII, as a number of orphaned children are evacuated to the countryside for safety.
Schoolteachers, Eve Parkins (Fox) and Jean Hogg (McCrory), are put in charge of helping to evacuate eight orphans out of the city and are tasked to take them to the abandoned Eel Marsh House, where they’re expected to set up camp until things back in the city settle down. Amongst the group of foundlings, is Edward (Pendergast); a young and a seemingly troubled boy who, after witnessing the death of his parents, has become temporarily mute and only communicates through notes and drawings.
It doesn’t take long before Eve – someone who has taken a special liking to Edward – begins noticing that something is off and that the young boy is being troubled by an evil presence (a.k.a The Woman in Black).
Like so many horror sequels, The Woman in Black 2 is nothing but a futile and a poorly constructed cash-grab. While the misty aesthetics manage to add a bit of the creepiness to the overall proceedings, the story – which has already been assessed and probed from all angles in the original – doesn’t really know where to go, let alone sustain the interest of the audience who will almost certainly see the jump-scares coming from a mile away.
Taking every single horror cliché and failing to provide and infuse any real depth or meaning to the character’s individual arcs, the performance, as a result, were equally ineffective. The drama is non-existent and the frights are cheap and relatively short-lived, ultimately, branding the film completely redundant.
Sinking further and deeper into its very own rabbit-hole of absurdity, Taken 3 – the third and hopefully last chapter in Luc Besson’s generally well-liked but unmistakably flawed Taken trilogy – has finally outstayed its welcome. Abandoning logic and pretty much everything that connects its concluding statement to any of its predecessors, Taken 3 disappoints and not even Bryan Mills – and his special set of skills – can save it from its demise.
Directed by Olivier Megaton, Taken 3 takes us to the sunny streets of Los Angeles where ex-government operative, Bryan Mills (Neeson), is adapting to his relatively quiet and uneventful single life. Realising that his daughter Kim (Grace) is no longer the little girl he wants her to be, Bryan continues to look for ways to become a part of her life, while his ex-wife, Lenore (Janssen) – who is experiencing marital problems with her husband, Stuart (Scott) – is trying to become a part of his once more.
It doesn’t take long before Bryan is swung into action when Lenore is found murdered in his very own apartment and, just like Harrison Ford in the Fugitive, Bryan is the suspect. Escaping from the hands of the law, our hero – with the help of some old friends – sets off to carry out his own investigation, in the hopes of finding the person responsible before he’s caught by Agent Dotzler (Whittaker).
Apart from the title and the central characters, Taken 3 shares very little common thread or connective tissue with any of its previous instalments. The Euro-action grit introduced in the first movie is long gone and tension has been reduced to a simmer; a handful of dubious Eastern European, unforgiving plot holes and the over-zealous editing leave the film hollow of what made the previous films stand above the usual action spiel.
Neeson, who allegedly did all his own fight sequences, is still his capable and charming self, however, the improbability of the situations he finds himself in – not to mention the laws of gravity he dares test – fall into typical Hollywood ridiculousness. The ever dependable Whittaker serves to be a wonderful addition to the film, though his talents, along with the story’s initial potential and appeal, are shamelessly underused.