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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.
Tapping into the historically disappointing world of videogame adaptations, Duncan Jones’ rather ambitious take on Warcraft – a popular real-time strategy game played by millions of fans around the world– hasn’t done much to change the perception that games just don’t translate all that well into films. While it has a big, sprawling universe to play with, Warcraft’s timeworn plot and over-the-top epic fantasy ambitions are difficult to digest.
The story begins with a fearsome tribe of giant Orcs fleeing their former rundown land of Draenor and entering the peaceful realm of Azeroth - a land ruled by King Llane (Cooper) and Lady Taria (Negga). Guided by Orc chief Blackhand (Brown) and Gul’dan’s (Wu) fearsome and unwavering leadership, the Orcs soon begin waging attacks on unsuspecting humans with the intention of claiming their land as their new home.
However, not all Orcs are happy with the savagery of the recent attacks, including Orc Soldier Durotan (Kebbell), who is worried about Gul’dan’s ruthless tactics and believes that a co-existence with the humans is possible. Meanwhile, in Azeroth, the King has called upon his loyal knight, Anduin Lothar (Fimmel), to come up with a plan of defense against the merciless tribe.
This basic plot is just the tip of the iceberg; with at least another ten characters and a handful of other subplots, Warcraft is one complicated and overwritten mess. Those unfamiliar with the videogame will definitely have a hard time understanding what’s going on, with Jones – who co-writes the script with Charles Leavitt - offering very little explanation and background to the creatures and the history behind the fantasy worlds they inhabit. Featuring every single epic fantasy trait under the sun, the film struggles to balance one too many ideas and never really stops for effect or any significant development for audiences to connect to.
The heavy CGI presence – you can almost see the green screens – is also another damaging factor to the production. While one could reasonably argue that there is plenty of craftsmanship involved with each and every shot, the sloppy and often heavy-handed editing, as well as the synthetic feel of the entire setup, gives this overcrowded film a seemingly empty presence. Another videogame movie misfire.
Known for his unique voice and understated approach to telling a story, writer-director, Jeff Nichols – see Take Shelter, Mud – returns with yet another distinctive and beautifully crafted tale of parenthood and faith in the undeniably special, Midnight Special.
The film tells the story of Roy (the always present and the always game Mr. Michael Shannon) who - together with his childhood friend Lucas (Edgerton) - has kidnapped his biological son, Alton (Lieberher), from a creepy cult run by Alton’s ‘adoptive’ father Calvin Meyer (Shepherd).
Where they are going is seemingly unclear but, what we do learn is that Alton – who spends most of the time wearing blue swimming goggles – is no ordinary child and that he possesses certain supernatural abilities that has not only drawn the attention of Meyer’s cult – who believe that Alton is their saviour – but that of the government as well.
Out on the run from seemingly everyone, Roy – who soon reaches out to Alton’s mother Sarah (Dunst) for the much-needed support - is willing and ready to do just about anything to keep his boy from harm which, naturally, only ends up putting them all against a number of obstacles and a great deal of danger along the way.
To truly and fully experience Nichols’ latest film, is to try and go in knowing as little as possible about the plot; the less you know, the bigger the impact. Staying one step ahead of the audience, the mysteries surrounding the story are gradually revealed, with Nichols making sure that all of his secrets and relevant story threads are exposed in their own time, ultimately providing the film with a quietly intensifying and slow-burning energy which is hard to shake off.
Gorgeously photographed, the mood and the atmosphere – which are supported by David Wingo’s hauntingly beautiful John Carpenter-esque musical score – is almost palpable, while the story’s 80’s retro setting – reminiscent of movies like E.T and Deep Impact – is beautifully captured and made relevant to the audiences of today. On the downside, however, some of the story threads could have done with a bit more exploration and had they had a bit more onscreen involvement, they could have carried a slightly deeper effect.
Marking his fourth collaboration with the talented director, Michael Shannon – quite possibly one of the most compelling actors working today – gives yet another all-in performance of a troubled father. Meanwhile, Lieberher shows great versatility for such a young actor, whilst Edgerton and Dunst are both complex and rooted in their respective performances.
Captivating and emotional, Nichols’ Midnight Special is an easy recommendation; a thoughtfully executed and a powerfully told sci-fi tale which uses on its wonderfully created visuals and unspoken words to convey its story.