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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Coriolanus

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Gerard Butler and Ralph Fiennes star in the movie "Coriolanus."
When your lead character proclaims, "The blood I drip is more medicinal than painful for me," you know someone's gonna get hurt. Or maybe hundreds.

Welcome to the big-screen treatment of William Shakespeare's tragedy "Coriolanus" (Weinstein), a consistently brutal and violent film which, when not shedding blood, offers a searing commentary on power, betrayal and revenge.

Making his directorial debut, Ralph Fiennes also takes on the starring role as the Roman general originally called Caius Marcius. Personifying evil and megalomania seems to be second nature to Fiennes by now, having cut his teeth as Lord Voldemort in all those "Harry Potter" films.

Screenwriter John Logan updates the drama's setting from ancient Rome to an imaginary version of the same locale in the present day.

The Eternal City is torn by strife and street fighting, resembling a bombed-out Baghdad. The people are hungry and ready to riot. Marcius has saved Rome, once again, from its enemies. But the mob blames him for diverting supplies to feed his troops.

"Coriolanus," however, is the antithesis of "Gladiator." Marcius pays no attention to public opinion or the nascent forces of democracy. Peace makes him restless. He lives only to fight and protect the city he loves.

War flares again, and Marcius gets back to doing what he does best. This time it's the Volscians who march on Rome, led by Marcius' nemesis, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). The Volscians are vanquished in the town of Corioles, earning our anti-hero general a new moniker, Coriolanus.

Coriolanus' redoubled fame inspires both Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave), his viper of a mother, and scheming politician Menenius (Brian Cox). Together, they persuade Coriolanus to run for consul, harnessing social media and television in the effort. They see in him a messianic figure who could rule at will. (While they, of course, pull the strings.)

But his campaign goes disastrously awry. Before long, Coriolanus is accused of treason and disgraced — banished, ironically, from the city he once saved from destruction.

Suffice it to say, hell hath no fury like a warlord scorned. Revenge is in the cards, and Coriolanus thinks the Volscians just might be interested in his plans.

Which side wins in "Coriolanus," good or evil? That's a moral conundrum Shakespeare scholars have been trying to unravel for 500 years. One thing at least is certain: "Coriolanus" is not for the faint of heart.

The film contains intense and pervasive violence, including shootings, stabbings, explosions and torture. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R —restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Apollonia: The persecution of Christians began in Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Philip. The first victim of the pagan mob was an old man named Metrius, who was tortured and then stoned to death. The second person who refused to worship their false idols was a Christian woman named Quinta. Her words infuriated the mob and she was scourged and stoned. 
<p>While most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions, an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.</p><p>There were many churches and altars dedicated to her. Apollonia is the patroness of dentists, and people suffering from toothache and other dental diseases often ask her intercession. She is pictured with a pair of pincers holding a tooth or with a golden tooth suspended from her necklace. St. Augustine explained her voluntary martyrdom as a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since no one is allowed to cause his or her own death.</p> American Catholic Blog We can find Christ among the despised, voiceless, and forgotten of the world. We have to move beyond that which we wish to ignore and forget about: embrace the seemingly un-embraceable, love the unlovable, and dare to know what we most fear and wish to leave unknowable.

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