Dan's Review: "Macbeth" is great Shakespeare
Dec 10, 2015 07:56PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf
Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in Macbeth - © 2015 - StudioCanal
Macbeth (StudioCanal/The Weinstein Company)
Rated R for strong violence and brief sexuality.
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.
Written by Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie and Todd Louiso, based on the play by William Shakespeare.
Directed by Justin Kurzel.
It’s time to brush up your Shakespeare, because there’s another film adaptation of a Bard classic coming to theaters this weekend with Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender in the title role of the man who would be king of Scotland, while Marion Cotillard takes on the role of Lady Macbeth.
The play may not be “the thing” in Justin Kurzel’s interpretation of Bill Shakespeare’s tragedy, since he and screenwriters Jacob Koskoff, Michael Leslie and Todd Louiso take several liberties with the story of Macbeth. Not to worry, since most of the basic theme survives, including the lust for power and the consequences of covering up for past sins.
It’s the basic tale of a war hero and his companion Banquo (Paddy Consadine) who are visited by three witches following a great battle victory, who tell the men they are destined for the throne in one way or another. Upon learning of the witches’ forecast Lady Macbeth urges her husband to speed up the process by assassinating King Duncan (David Thewlis), framing others, and making a power grab for the throne. Possessed by guilt and paranoia, Macbeth has to commit more murders to keep the farce of his ascension going. The victims of his scheme include Banquo and the family of MacDuff (Sean Harris), another royal associate.
The burden of guilt also passes on to Lady Macbeth, who eventually loses her sanity over the memory of her own deceased child (a twist that does not exist in the play).
Looking validation, Macbeth calls upon the witches again, who trick him into a false assurance of invincibility, leading to his fateful reckoning with Macduff.
Kurzel’s version of Macbeth may not please Bard purists, but if you can look past some of the creative license you will see a fantastic film that effectively delivers a potent message about power, delusion, and the cost of both. The cinematography (shot mostly in Scotland) along with a grand production design and equally brilliant costumes make Macbeth especially enjoyable.
Despite some liberties with Shakespeare’s original story, rest assured most of the famous dialogue from the play survives (“Is that a dagger I see before me?”).
Fassbender’s performance is fantastic, giving the Scottish king a new level of bloodlust and hubris. It is Marion Cotillard’s portrayal of Lady Macbeth that deserves the greatest accolades, especially when she depicts the conflict of a woman who learns about the costs of power the hard way. Sean Harris’ performance as Macduff deserves special note as well.
Be warned that Macbeth is rated R for a reason, with plenty of blood, gore, and disturbing images (some involving children), so this may not be a movie you’d use to introduce younger audiences to Shakespeare.