Shakespearean adaptations that set the Bard’s plays in a contemporary setting with the classical dialogue, tend to divide moviegoers with respect to how well the approach works (see: reactions to Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet or Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet).

First-time director Ralph Fiennes is bringing one of the famous playwright’s more controversial works, Coriolanus, to life in a similar fashion. Judging by the UK trailer for the film, does the Oscar-nominee look to have done justice to the original stage drama?

The answer is… yes, actually. Fiennes recruited director of photography Barry Ackroyd and camera operator Oliver Driscoll (The Hurt Locker, Green Zone) in order to visually realize Shakespeare’s Coriolanus as a gritty modern-day tale of war. Going off the early footage shown in the international theatrical preview, that trio looks to have transformed the play into  a viscerally engaging action-drama.

Here is an official synopsis for the Coriolanus adaptation:

Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes), a hero of Rome, is a great soldier but despises the people. His extreme views ignite a mass riot and he is banished from Rome.  Coriolanus allies with a sworn enemy (Gerard Butler) to take his revenge on the city. As director and star, Ralph Fiennes brings William Shakespeare’s visceral history play to the big screen for the first time. Coriolanus is a drama for the ages, a commentary on the precarious draw of war and an auspicious directorial debut from one of the world’s great classical actor.

Now check out the UK trailer for Coriolanus (via CC2K) below:

Fiennes rarely delivers anything but a powerful performance and he has the sort of gravitas to make Coriolanus an empathetic yet morally dubious figure. Butler is at his best when he’s playing rugged soldiers (and not appearing in lame rom-coms), so he should do well as Coriolanus’ frenemy, Tullus Aufidius. With the supporting cast being rounded out by older stars like Oscar-winner Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox (always a plus), charismatic character actor James Nesbitt (The Hobbit), and Tree of Life starlet Jessica Chastain, Coriolanus as a whole should be great, on the acting front. That’s good news, considering the characters will all have to convincingly speak with a Shakespearean tongue.

While Coriolanus is not one of The Bard’s best known works, it’s definitely one that’s all the more relevant in this day and age. The original play addresses issues concerning the relevancy of democracy and what role it plays in times of war and violence. So, assuming you can handle the fact that its stars won’t be speaking or cursing in everyday English, that’s all the more reason for everyone to give this potential awards contender a look.

Coriolanus is slated for theatrical release in the U.S. on December 2nd, 2011. It will hit theaters in the U.K. on January 20th, 2012.

Source: Lionsgate (via CC2K)