Sign in using your account with
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.
Ah, horror sequels – what can you say about them that haven’t been said before? We’re at a point now where not even the most ardent and committed of horror fans can argue the notion that sequels in this particular genre of filmmaking are largely motivated by the prospect of a huge cash-in at the box office. It’s understandable; filmmakers need to make films that make money so that they can make more films.
There are occasions, however, where that motivation is all too obvious and Sinister 2 suffers exactly that. Following on from the relatively unnerving original starring Ethan Hawke, to call this a sequel would be giving the script far too much credit; there are no new ideas or even any kind of continuation with the story of the film’s antagonist, Bughuul.
In the first film, we’re told that Bughuul possesses a child, who then goes on to murder his or her family. The house in which the murder takes place is then essentially haunted, driving the next tenants – who discover videos of the previous murders – away, but back into the arms of Bughuul, where they are murdered by, again, one of the children – and so on and so forth. There are various small details in between the cracks of this vicious cycle – violent dreams, creepy twins, a clan of ghost-kids – but the problem with Sinister 2 is that it revisits all of these elements and expects you to be okay with that. It’s not okay; in fact, it’s terrible. This ‘sequel’ essentially retreads the same skeleton of the plot and, because of a typically rosy ending, is far inferior in terms suspense and expectation – it’s the same but nowhere near as good, is what this review title could have read.
The only glimmer of light to come through the film is the performance of James Ransone, who reprises what was peripheral role in the original as the nameless deputy. There’s a real sense of the character – credited as Deputy So & So – being a kind-hearted, lone-wolf gun-slinger who wants to do good and is often misunderstood because of it. He’s worn-out, he’s tired and he’s always on the move. Aesthetically, the film hits the right notes – but, again, there are no surprises; the family lives in an old, creaky farmhouse, for example.
If ever there was a perfect example of the misguided nature of the film sequel, Sinister 2 is it. You can commend a sequel for trying to build on and expand the original, but this film seems to have regressed.
There are few actors that commit to their roles as much as Benecio Del Toro, no matter how small; the Puerto Rican actor is approaching his fiftieth birthday, but only seem to be getting better with age, as he demonstrates quite spectacularly at times as one of the most infamous drug-lords of the past century in Escobar: Paradise Lost.
While the title would suggest this is a film documenting the remarkable life of Escobar, it’s not; in fact, he’s almost plays an antagonist in the film – and that’s the movie’s biggest problem. While it never pretends to be an Escobar biography, Del Toro is simply more interesting than the main narrative, which switches from romance, to thriller, to gun-toting action in its 120 minute running time.
Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson is technically the lead and the young actor takes on the role of a Canadian thrust into Escobar’s world after he falls for the Colombian kingpin’s niece, played by little-known actress, Claudia Traisac.
While Hutcherson occasionally injects the character of Nick with the right kind of youthful naivety, he cowers in the presence of Del Toro’s portrayal of Escobar, relegating the character to nothing more than a bit-part player – both in Escobar’s world of crime and in the context of the film. It disrupts the flow of the film somewhat; while Hutcherson and Traisac’s on-screen romance takes centre-stage in the first third of the film, by the time Escobar is injected into proceedings, Del Toro’s sheer magnetism leaves little room for you to maintain interest, let alone root for, Hutcherson’s character.
As the directorial debut of Andrea Di Stefano, this is a solid piece of work from the Italian director – but at the same time, there’s a lingering sense that suggests that this project could have been so much more if the eponymous character was also the main one – such is Del Toro’s charisma and Escobar’s endlessly remarkable life story.
Shot entirely in Panama, everything looks as it should be and it further contributes to the aesthetic domain of Escobar, where Nick, rightly, stands out like a sore thumb. But by the end of the film, one can’t help but wonder what Di Stefano and Del Toro could have achieved with an adjusted script.