Ralph Fiennes makes his directing debut and stars in this sort-of-modernized adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known histories, about a Roman general who is not shy about getting into the thick of battle to repel the invading force of a rebellious province. When supporters in the Senate propose to give him the political office of Consul, rivals use the power of public opinion to have him banished instead, where he joins the rebels he recently fought and threatens to take revenge on Rome.
The film is a good-looking production with an impressive cast, including Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, James Nesbitt, and Jessica Chastain. It is set in modern times while still employing the Elizabethan text, with contemporary uniforms for and weapons for the soldiers, and amusing sequences of global news anchors delivering some of the commentary. Fiennes stands out as the general who resents the political games and the presumption of the common people to judge him; it isn’t hard to see a parallel between his hubris and that of certain contemporary political forces and those who elected them. Indeed, I almost rooted for him at times.