While the play’s saga of political leadership at odds with the populace is set in Roman times, the film unfolds in a modern city still called Rome, but shot in Belgrade and drawing on the visual iconography of recent Balkan conflicts – all grey combat fatigues, suffering civilians and rolling satellite news. As always, when the Bard is transposed in such a way, the game is partly about how far the makers can push the modernity, yet the smartphone-shot assassinations and audience-baiting TV debates stay on the witty side of incongruous.
The key, though, is that the themes still feel relevant: Fiennes’s eponymous general is just the man to save the city from the Volscian assault force. Fiennes the performer attacks it with such vivid urgency we reluctantly forgo a certain emotional resonance. As a director, he knows when to keep it simple and let the actors rip. A committed and worthwhile celluloid version of a play so few of us really know.
|Stars:||Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Ashraf Barhom|