Ralph Fiennes’s intense directorial debut Coriolanus, a contemporary take on the Shakespearean tragedy, opens at Film Society this weekend after a hit festival run where it picked up awards and more than a few enthusiastic notices from critics.

Set in modern times, the film concerns a Roman general (Fiennes) who believes his stock and his fearsome military legacy make him an ascendant political leader. The people, in a prophetic nod to class unrest that’s spreading throughout the world, don’t see it that way. 

Flanked by cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker), Fiennes directs the film with bravado to spare but also an attention to language that has earned him universal praise—and not just for his role behind the camera. In The New York Times, Manohla Dargis wrote that his “phrasing is so brilliant that you might be tempted to close your eyes if his physical performance weren’t equally mesmerizing.” 

Echoing the movie’s political resonance, Lisa Schwartbaum of Entertainment Weekly wrote that it’s “one of the year's best political thrillers. It's also nearly 500 years old.”

The film’s stellar supporting players include Academy Award winner Vanessa Redgrave, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox and 2011’s actrice célèbre Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life). Coriolanus begins its run Friday at the Francesca Beale Theater; tickets are on sale now.