STARRING: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, Elizabeth Debicki, David Thewlis, Ross Anderson, David Hayman, Maurice Roëves, Hilton McRae, Seylan Baxter, Lynn Kennedy, Kayla Fallon, Amber Rissmann, Lochlann Harris, Barrie Martin, Rebecca Benson, James Harkness, Scott Dymond, Gerard Miller, Shaun Lucas, Jamie Flint and Che Grant
Macbeth, a Thane of Scotland, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.
Based on the William Shakespeare play, Macbeth places us in Scotland during a civil war where Macbeth emerges victorious in a final battle, earning the title Thane of Cawdor. On the battlefield he’s observed by three women with a small girl and an infant, hailing him as the future King of Scotland before disappearing in the mist. As he explains the witches’ prophecies to his wife, Lady Macbeth, she prays to the dark spirits for guidance and urges her husband to fulfil the prophecy…by killing King Duncan.
Some of us by now will be familiar with the play by William Shakespeare that is adapted here for the big screen and there has been tackled a few times from directors such as Roman Polanski to Kenneth Branagh (though the latter was a stage production). I can say though that here director Justin Kurzel has not only made the best big screen adaptation of Macbeth, but has also made one of the most spectacularly beautiful films of the year.
The film is visually stunning, from the artistic way the battle sequences are created, to its use of natural light combined with its environment from the fog down to the way the orange outlet of another battle sequence thanks to a raging fire, the cinematography from Adam Arkapaw, collaborating once again with Kurzel after their time on The Snowtown Murders, is outstanding in creating such a cinematic scale for this tale of obsession and corruption of the human soul. Kurzel as I said does a great job of directing, from the way in which the initial battle sequence has the right balance of slow motion and real-time shots involved to the way he builds up long scenes with the payoffs equally earned by the end of them. It helps also that the cast is absolutely great as well, especially in the two leads. Michael Fassbender is mesmerising as Macbeth, carrying an incredible amount of intensity from his mannerisms right down to the look in his eyes, becoming obsessed with power and his paranoia over his actions as the film progresses. Just as good is Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth is throughly well acted as the woman who adds fuel to the fire for her husbands ambition and fulfil the prophecy as the future King of Scotland though I think (could be wrong and wouldn’t be the first) that her role is underplayed in comparison to the play itself. The supporting cast is filled with talented actors with small roles too, from the likes of Paddy Considine as Banquo, to David Thewlis as King Duncan to the highlight supporting performance brought to us by Sean Harris as Macduff.
As much as I enjoyed this film it also helps that I knew the play already which is where the problem may be for some film viewers. As always with adaptations of William Shakespeare’s work is either they translate it to current dialect which normally doesn’t work or keep the Shakespeare’s way of words that we’re used too and the latter is the case here with Macbeth and if you are coming in unaware of the story and the language it may feel like walking in and watching a foreign language film without subtitles for some. Also maybe it’s just me but the film felt slightly rushed in the final act but that’s minor nitpicking on this well done film.
Well directed, with beautiful cinematography and great performances from the films leads, Macbeth is a great adaptation on William Shakespeare’s work. Now I’m really looking forward to seeing what the trio of Kurzel, Fassbender and Cotillard do with Assassin’s Creed. 8/10