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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.
With films like Hunger Games, Divergent and Twilight finding unbridled box office success, adult feature film adaptations have, to some extent begun, to reach saturation and the latest proves exactly that.
The Maze Runner builds on a genuinely intriguing dystopian setting that fails to offer anything new to the genre as a film, despites the interesting premise of James Dashner’s 2009 book.
Directed by first-time filmmaker, Wes Ball, the story follows Thomas (O’Brien); a young man who finds himself waking up with amnesia and surrounded by an army of equally curious young men. He soon learns that he has woken up in the Glade; a sprawling savannah that is towered off by high – and maze-like – concrete walls.
Just like Thomas, the boys, led by Alby (Ameen) – who has been stuck in the Glade for the past three years – are unable to recall who they are and how they got there. The increasing number of new arrivals eventually led the confused boys to build a functioning mini-society of sorts, that depends on ‘runners’ – the fittest, fastest and most agile of the group – to race into the maze each day and look for a way out. The task is made all the more daunting by the fact that the gates that guard the maze close buy sundown and no one dares imagine what could happen to anyone who gets stuck there with the large monsters known as Grievers who patrol the maze at night.
Thomas initially has a hard time believing the myth, but realises the severity of the situation when one of the boys’ life is put into danger. The group is soon thrown into complete chaos when the first girl to arrive at the Glade, Teresa (Scodelario), shows up with a threatening message, making the boys realise that they can no longer wait for a miracle but, that they themselves must find a way to escape – and fast.
The Maze Runner marks the first and the opening chapter of a planned three-part series that once again sees a group of teenagers fighting for their lives against a mysterious and much superior force. To its credit, though, the story is fairly engaging, as the plot builds on a similar premise to William Golding’s 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies.
The film succeeds in projecting a deliciously claustrophobic tone and the characters are likeable, while even the action is pretty solid throughout.
However, the film plays out like an intro to the series and those who haven’t read the book might feel a little cheated by the fact that the character of Thomas is never really explored and short-changed by the abrupt - and calculated - finale.
Overall, The Maze Runner is a decent, if unremarkable, first chapter to the series and now the pressure is really on for the second.
Liam Neeson’s ‘special set of skills’ are once again put to good use in Scott Frank’s latest neo-noir thriller, A Walk Among the Tombstones; a dark and a gritty spy-thriller that takes a rather a brutal approach to the notions of revenge and redemption.
Set in 1991, the story – adapted from the pages of Lawrence Block’s popular series of novels of the same name – centres on Matt Scudder (Neeson); an ex-cop turned unlicensed investigator, whose love for booze has forced him to retire early and join an alcoholic anonymous support group.
During one of their regular meetings, Scudder is approached by fellow alcoholic, Peter Kristo (Holbrook), who informs him that his drug-trafficking brother, Kenny Kristo (Stevens), requires his services. After being summoned to Kenny’s lavish home, it’s revealed that Kenny’s wife was kidnapped and, despite paying the hefty ransom, was killed and returned to him in pieces.
Scudder befriends a homeless but seemingly intelligent boy, TJ (Bradley), while conducting research and, despite his young age, becomes a close friend and an informal assistant. The road to revenge soon leads them to creepy cemetery groundskeeper, James Loogan (Olafsson), and Scudder, whose past still haunts him, soon learns that there’s more at play than just a kidnapping.
Directed and adapted to the screen by Scott Frank, A Walk Among the Tombstones doesn’t exactly fall in line with Liam Neeson’s recent filmography and those expecting more of the bravado in Taken, might be a little disappointed. This is a slow-burning picture which requires a certain amount of stomach – thanks to its graphic violence – and staying power due to its longwinded and lengthy plot. The cinematography paints the New York setting in tones of grey which contributes to an engaging overall sinister tone.
Neeson carries the story like a true Hollywood pro as the enigmatic lead and he comes across as unbending, kind and utterly ruthless all at the same time. Unfortunately, the villains – played by Harbour and Thompson – are a little cartoonish, while Olafsson’s character deserved a little bit more screen-time.
Taking everything into account, A Walk Among the Tombstones is a solid film that owes most, if not all, of its charisma, so to speak, to Mr Neeson.