Coriolanus. Directed by ("based," we are assured, on the "play" by William Shakespeare): Ralph Fiennes. Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave (Who left the phonebook out in the rain? ...her looks--desiccated, pinched, bitter now--mirror her insufferable, brittle self-righteousness, so there is entropy in the universe), Jessica Chastain (last seen that I recall as the pouty, un-virginal daughter in The Upside of Anger), doing acceptably (and poutably) here despite being one (pfui!) Gringa mouthing in Britishitude fee-male outrage that a man seek redress over a public affront and public injustice.
The fate of a brave soldier who cannot keep his mouth shut, cannot love the plebs. Tell that to McChrystal and Petraeus and McMaster and Yingling and Nagl and Shinseki and Zinni and Smedley Butler, who ree-tired early or into oblivion and to vague civic opprobrium on account of said what had to be said to whom: "I cannot stand naked and entreat them for my wounds' sake to give their suffrage." Shakespeare's generals pretty much take a beating for their integritas (allegedly the sound of a fist thumping a so-solid breastplate... in modern life the sound of blunt object poked up a so-tight umph umph till owner's eyeballs bug out, and most often by one's similar, more's the pity): Titus Andronicus (pronounced Andro-NIGH-cus in Britspeak); Coriolanus (pronounced Corio-LAY-nus in Brititiary); Othello (pronounced Ori-FICE in Britese). Slimy politicians, demagogues, sanctimonious fee-males, ruthless warlords... oooh, that Shakespeare was prescient in his vision of things future, nay eternal (or else we're dumb as a soda cracker on account of cannot evolve beyond 1623). I kinda incline toward both viewpoints simultemporaneously.Anyhow. What've we done with poor Shakespeare lately? We've got The King is Alive in the Kalahari (variously spelt) and Looking for Richard in New York (about as arid, do you ask me), then Ten Things I Hate About You/Taming of the Shrew in Seattle (arid and rainy at once) and Shakespeare in Love now Anonymous (which appear to have blown through the Cineplex without much dust, go figure: the popcorn crowd not ready for questions of authorship?), couple of Midsummernight's and Romeo's out there, too, along with one interesting variant: the set-in-1930's Richard III with Ian McKellam waving a broomhandle Mauser and intoning the "Now is the winter..." speech into the microphone at a dress ball. Well, otay. Have it your way. You can dress everybody up in pantyhose and those puffy shorts things or you can try to hang some of the Bard's barbs on modern fixtures. Howsomever you do it, we know we're gonna get a dose of cultcha and better like it or risk be identified as a boor (that's not bore, now, someone merely uninteresting; it's boor, someone violently and proudly and publicly dumb, brutish, recalcitrant). Ouch! And no gummi bears while the ac-toors are mouthing the lines, trippingly to the tongue, if we're lucky.
Soooooo... This Coriolanus appears to be set vaguely in Eastern Euro where a warlord, Aufidus (Gerald Butler doing his best to twang the second-fiddle with that what-is-it Scot's accent of his and sorta wasted in a colorless role or perhaps investing a role that color without it for reasons of wasn't-his-thing...though I consider his turn as Beowulf one of the best of any portrayal of anything in all cinee-mah), harboring dark resentment over atrocity worked on his family, his people and kinda perhaps maybe a Serbian (or Croatian... or Kosovoan like what's the difference? based on the uniforms and beards... whoa! ... lotta beards in this one) defies "Rome" and her staunch defender, Marcius (that's how Shakespeare spellt it, by the bye) soon to become Coriolanus after a bloody victory at Corioli. Marcius and Aufidus are sworn enemies and to the death, warrior adversaries who nonetheless share the warrior's bond of courage after its fashion and passion in battle, later to become dubious allies. Aufidus seeks revenge; Marcius, it would seem, harbors ambitions (as does his Mom, Volumnia: "Thou art my warrior; I holp to frame thee," "holp" the Old English past particuticle periphrastive of "help," let me say before the English Department from Yale weighs in). To become tribune (not to be confused with lictor or edile: quick lesson in Roman hierarchy: a tribune can make a lictor do push-ups can make an edile chug the squeeze-bottle of mustard), though, you do have to schmooze the populus romanus (the populum romanum to refigitate the accusative absolute according to its proper declension; remember Mark Twain said he'd rather decline two beers than one noun), stroke the plebedians, "mountebank their loves," "cog their hearts." This, alas, Marcius/Coriolanus is too "noble" to do and the plebs too dumb to do without.
Spurned by the mob (a mob massaged by evil partisans against his "marcial"snobbery), the newly-minted Coriolanus (variously pronounced) sidles over to Aufidus, agreeing to lead the latter's troops against Rome. Camped now outside the walls of that city, Coriolanus now gets treated to a harangue on duty and Volkssturmitude by the braying Volumnia, who wrenches tears from the scarred but inescapably Roman Roman and an armistice, the which will cost him ultimately his life (sorry to ruin it for you, but when did a Shakespeare play end happily? "But it sufficeth that it will end and then the end be known..."). Quite a clever rendition, seem to me, at least a watchable one: the necessary background neatly, urgently registered as news reports CNN style across a blurry teevee screen. Fiennes appropriately adamantine as a man who cannot love men (kills a bunch of them) and, to give her her due, Redgrave appropriately irksome as a fee-male who knows just what men ought to do with their lives.
Nagl does not belong on this list. Neither do some of the others. pl