Ralph Fiennes' 'Coriolanus': What the Critics are Saying

 Coriolanus Films Ltd./Magnolia Mae Films/Berlin International Film Festival

The reviews are in for Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut, Coriolanus.

PHOTOS: Berlin Film Festival Buzz Films

The film, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February, is set for a theatrical debut of Jan. 20. But first, the Weinstein Co. will embark on an awards qualifying run later this month.

Fiennes stars in the title role, enlisting Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave and Jessica Chastain for key roles surrounding his modern day adaptation of William Shakespeare’s 17th century story.

VIDEO: Ralph Fiennes Takes Shakespeare to Another Level in 'Coriolanus' Trailer

The film has garnered at 94% rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Read below for a sampling of critics opinions on the project.

"It could be sold as a straightforward action picture and should not put off those who find Shakespeare daunting. It's a tough, violent and moving tragedy with splendid performances by [Ralph] Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave as his mother, Brian Cox as his friend Menenius, and Gerard Butler as his enemy Aufidius. Its success should carry beyond festivals and scholars to a mainstream audience.” -- Ray Bennett, The Hollywood Reporter

EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: New 'Coriolanus' Stills of Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave

"For his first foray behind the camera, Fiennes has started off right by surrounding himself with a superlative cast … He has taken the title role for himself, Caius Martius Coriolanus, in the story of a war hero wading into the political arena only to be undone by his hubris. In a far riskier move, the director, working with screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator), has chosen to stay with the syntax of the play while updating the rest of the production, which is both the charm and the challenge of Coriolanus. But if you give yourself over to that clash of style and sensibility, something magical happens as the power, the prescience and the precision of Shakespeare's words take hold of modern problems.” -- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

FILM REVIEW: 'Coriolanus'

"As soon as a thrilling Ralph Fiennes appears on Coriolanus it’s clear why he chose this lesser-known Shakespeare tragedy for his directing debut. Dressed in camouflage fatigues Mr. Fiennes — as the mythic Roman military hero first known as Caius Martius and later Coriolanus — enters a raucous scene and commands it with just a glare. What power! The city’s hungry, rioting citizens, some carrying protest signs and one holding a camera phone, have descended, demanding food. Martius charges at them and then lets loose the contempt that will aid in his downfall: 'What’s the matter, you dissentious rogues, that, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion, make yourselves scabs?' The voice is soft but insistent, the rage thunderous and the backdrop — war, famine, civil unrest — as familiar as the news.” -- Manohla Dargis, New York Times

VIDEO: Ralph Fiennes Reveals Backstory on His Name, Finest Performances and Directorial Debut, 'Coriolanus'

“Butler is in 300 mode, playing yet another variation of a gun-toting renegade, as he did in Law Abiding Citizen and Machine Gun Preacher. As the arrogant antihero, Fiennes oozes wrathful menace and scorn, persuasively uttering such lines as "Anger's my meat." He tells his soldiers, "Make you a sword of me," but his battles resemble video games more than swordplay. Redgrave is the film's unqualified highlight. The ever-graceful 74-year-old tosses off Shakespeare's language as if such poetry were second nature. She makes us believe her character more than any of the others, communicating a lively strength as well as resolute iciness with remarkable grace. Jessica Chastain ably plays Virgilia, Coriolanus' hapless wife. She is proving to be a versatile young actresses, moving smoothly from a role as a flashy outsider among Southern belles in The Help to a fierce action heroine in The Debt and a grieving mother in The Tree of Life.” -- Claudia Puig, USA Today

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