Ralph Fiennes is an actor who can seethe with the best of them, and in this film — which he directed; the screenplay’s by John Logan — he plays a man who appears to be on intimate terms with rage. When he and Gerard Butler share scenes together, meanwhile, the testosterone is so thick it threatens to distract from Shakespeare’s hypnotic language. But what’s ultimately most riveting about Coriolanus is that, as one of those Shakespeare plays that hardly anyone, even English majors, ever reads, it feels wholly and bracingly new. Unlike the experience most of us have while watching Hamlet or Lear or A Midsummer Night’s Dream or The Merchant of Venice, while watching Coriolanus we don’t know what’s going to happen next; we only know that, with Fiennes, it will be well worth seeing, and hearing.
See also: Julie Taymor’s adventurous, blood-spattered and, at times, woefully pretentious Titus (1999).