Brian Cox did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Menenius in Coriolanus.
Cox plays the role of Menenius a leading Roman senator and a definite supporter of Caius Martius. We first meet Menenius as he goes to visit the home of Caius well he is away and sees Caius's mother Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave), wife Virgilia (Jessica Chastain) and his son. From this first scene one can see that Cox is magnetic as usual. There is just something about the way he maneuvers a scene it's captivating, now Cox goes even further here with his approach to Shakespeare. Now I have to admit even before seeing this film Cox is someone you'd expect to do well with the Bard anyways. Cox's ability though perhaps surpasses that expectation. This is because he successfully modernizes it in every sense except literally changes the words to modern equivalents. Cox masters the words in a most remarkable fashion. There is such an effortlessness and ease about it. Cox makes every word seem so utterly natural. The man of modern clothing speaking the old words, which Menenius is always in, never seems a gimmick or out of place due to Cox. Cox makes it so it seems this is exactly how the man should speak.
Cox's ability in the role goes past that mastery though, as he takes the part of Menenius who seems like he is there often to delivery exposition or perhaps set up the more emotional moments for the other characters, particularly Caius. Cox never allows this to be a limitation, through his exceptional approach to the part. Again the idea of modernizing the character is key to Cox's work. Cox does not play Menenius as a senator of old, but rather as a modern elder statesmen. Cox brings that grace that you'd expect from such a man. Cox finds the needed eloquence about him, in there is even this lightness to him fitting for man who specializes in easing situations rather than exacerbating them. Cox presents the right type of confidence in the man in that it's not confrontational. Cox instead exudes the pivotal quality of a different kind of leader, as the emphasis is not on command but rather a definite charm underlined with a definite sense of empathy for those he speaks for.
Now something I love about Cox's work is how honest he makes Menenius as a character throughout the film, it's especially nice change of pace considering how often Cox plays the duplicitous sort. There is such a warmth in every scene with Caius's family. You really feel his history with every family member, and Cox gives understanding to Menenius's motivations throughout. In the moments where Caius acts out in such anger, Cox is so effective in realizing a genuine concern in Menenius, not only for the state but for a man he cares for. There's a great scene for Cox where he speaks to other politicians of the state, less supportive of Caius, and Cox nicely downplays the overt charm revealing a more directly incisive sort ready to deal with those who wish to stab Caius in the back. This is no unveiling a facade by Cox instead he only reinforces the earnestness of Menenius's support of Caius, as he portrays the intensity of the man's passion as he argues to support Caius. Again there is very little time exclusively spent on the development of Menenius's character, luckily that the little there is more than enough for Cox. Cox does not waste a reaction or a line, as he portrays the gradual decay of Menenius in a different way from Caius's decay. As the Roman authorities continue to betray Caius, Cox gradually reveals a growing depression in the senator as he sees everything he worked for is crumbling around him. After Caius is banished, only to come back to wage war against Rome, Menenius is sent as the envoy to attempt to negotiate a peace with the man. Cox's outstanding in the scene as he plays a definite desperation in Menenius as he tries to bring back his old charm, and warmth as he attempts to call upon his old friendship with the man. Cox is affecting in the way he shows this to all fall apart as Caius's cuts off his old friend with a simple "away". Cox depicts a shock in Menenius and a real pain as his face wears a true sense of despair. After the meeting Cox is heartbreaking as presents Menenius as man without place or purpose, haunted by his failure to serve either his country or his friend. This is a truly inspired Shakespearean performance by Brian Cox. This is not only in terms of his new approach to the old text, but also in the complexity and poignancy he finds in his portrait of character who would be nothing in the wrong hands.