Macbeth (Michael Fassbinder) was the loyal subject of Duncan, the King of Scotland (David Thewlis), until three witches prophesize his ascension to the throne. Girded by the supernatural prediction, he takes matters, murder primarily, into his own hands to assure that he become the new king in “Macbeth.”
Modern adaptations of the Bard’s many works are handled traditionally, with Shakespeare’s historical periods used as the backdrop for his stories, like the Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet (1968),” or in a more contemporary way, such as Richard Loncraine’s “Richard III (1996),” set in a mythical 1930s England amidst the throes of civil war. Director Justin Kurzel takes the former traditional route with a tale of ambition and uncontrolled power of the man who would be king of the wild land of the Scots.
Many of us have a problem with Shakespeare’s arcane use of the English language (well, it was modern English back then) in his plays. That could have been a problem with “Macbeth” but, in this latest adaptation, the caliber of the acting and the clearly told story – even I got the whole thing – makes this a superior work of a classic play.
Michael Fassbender is striking in his performance and embodies the ambitious Macbeth in his quest for power and the throne of Scotland. Marie Cotillard is amazing as Lady Macbeth and gives full dimension as the woman behind the throne. The supporting cast, including Paddy Considine as loyal Banquo and Sean Harris as Macbeth’s sworn enemy Macduff, are familiar to those who know the Bard’s story and well played by all.
Production is first rate from costume to makeup and set design. Photography by Adam Arkapaw combines the striking backdrop of the Isle of Skye in the wilds of Scotland with the sharply honed storytelling by director Justin Kurzel and his team of writers adapting the work – Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie and Todd Louiso. This is a total package both in front and behind the camera but, thus far, is not getting the attention by audiences it deserves – especially since some of the highly toted films out this awards season are falling short of the mark. I give it an A-.
Justin Kurzel's ("The Snowtown Murders") "Macbeth" is a grim and brooding yet thrilling adaptation of the Shakespeare play (Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie and Todd Louiso) of the Scottish man-who-would-be-king. This amazing production favors period reality over Shakespearean finery (costuming by Fiona Crombie), the Scottish warriors faces fiercely painted, Lady Macbeth's (Marion Cotillard) eyes highlighted by a swath of blue. Shot in England and the Isle of Skye, Adam Arkapaw's ("The Snowtown Murders") cinematography is shrouded in an ever present mist. Slo motion photography has been used in battle scenes many times before, but the choice is so right here it's like we're seeing the device anew. Jed Kurzel's ("The Babadook") edgy, discordant violin score presages the events that will turn the noble Macbeth into traitorous tyrant.
Michael Fassbender is weighty as the Thane of Glamis, loyal servant of King Duncan (David Thewlis) until the prophecy of the Wyrd women, quickly proven when the King grants him the title of Thame of Cawdor, ignites his ambition. Marion Cotillard, here portrayed as a grieving mother (this addition accentuates the themes of legacy), is a soulful Lady Macbeth. The film also features Paddy Considine as Macbeth's friend betrayed, Banquo, Jack Reynor ("Transformers: Age of Extinction") as Prince Malcolm and Sean Harris ("Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation") as the raging, vengeful Macduff.
Kurzel, whose "Snowtown Murders" was a dark, modern portrayal of human evil, has a haunting, brutal adaptation of Shakespeare's Scottish play.
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