This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
The point with Shakespeare is the language. Modern-dress productions of his plays are common and can inspire intriguing viewpoints. Who is to say that "Coriolanus" might not as well be set in the Middle East as in Rome — neither a place Shakespeare had ever seen? In the 1995 film version of "Richard III," for instance, Ian McKellen was cast as a fascist dictator of the 1930s.
Now we have Ralph Fiennes directing and starring in "Coriolanus," one of the Roman tragedies, where the feral and discontented general is at war in "a place calling itself Rome." The walls are covered with graffiti, grenade launchers replace swords, and we get the obligatory shot of warriors being blown toward us with an explosion blossoming behind. The costumes, art direction and props could be used for an action film about most modern wars, including that in Bosnia, and indeed the film was shot on location in Belgrade.
Apart from the infinite varieties of the human face, there are no sights in "Coriolanus" I'm not familiar with. Fiennes, an actor who can remake himself, is here lean and muscular, his head shaven, his neck a muscular trunk displaying a dragon tattoo. He carries an AK-47. Is this Shakespeare's hero? Did Shakespeare envision Coriolanus in Greco-Roman draperies? I imagine him alone in a room, writing by candlelight, intoxicated by language. For him, Coriolanus was the name of the speaker of his words.
One of the pleasures of Fiennes' film is that the screenplay by John Logan ("Hugo," "Gladiator") makes room for as much of Shakespeare's language as possible. I would have enjoyed more, because such actors as Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox let the words roll trippingly off the tongue.