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Macbeth – Review

Director Justin Kurzel’s take on the Shakespearian tragedy proves to be a harrowing and psychologically powerful piece, which is further enhanced by the performances of a phenomenal cast.

Theatrical release poster

Kurzel’s version of Macbeth marks the tragedy’s 12th screen adaptation, the first going as far back to the silent film era. So its safe to say now having seen the latest version, that even though the story will always stay the same, it reminds you of why Macbeth is regarded as one of the greatest works in dramatic history. The story portrays the life of Macbeth, a Scottish warrior and Thane of Glamis, who is prophesised by three witches that he is to become the future King of Scotland. As a result of the prophecy, Macbeth is consumed by power lust and, after goading from his wife Lady Macbeth, eventually murders the current King Duncan and takes his throne. The story then gradually depicts Macbeth’s descent into madness and his tyrannical rule over his people, punishing and executing anyone whom he considers a threat to his power. The role of Macbeth is played phenomenally by Michael Fassbender. Fassbender becomes the latest actor to play the role, following in the footsteps of several renowned actors, most notably Orson Wells and Kenneth Branagh (theatre). Fassbender’s portrayal of a man who’s mind is slowly ravaged by paranoia and insanity is one of the most riveting performances of the year. Another performance that should be lauded is that of Marion Cotillard, who portrays the role of Lady Macbeth, Macbeth’s domineering, femme fatale wife. The chemistry between both Fassbender and Cotillard is captivating and the two are without a doubt a formidable screen duo. The supporting cast of the film also deserve praise, with great performances from the likes of: Paddy Considine (Banquo), David Thewlis (King Duncan) and Sean Harris (Macduff).

Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

The direction of the film is top notch with some brilliant choices for filming locations, most notably Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland for Macbeth’s castle and the final battle scene. One of the best aspects of the direction for me, was Kurzel’s choice to focus more on portraying the psychology of the characters. The combination of fast cutting and slow motion shots perfectly convey the schizophrenic madness of Macbeth’s mind and also makes the story more visceral and gut wrenching. The only problem I think many modern viewers will find is wrapping their heads around the film’s usage of the original Shakespearian dialogue. Those who are familiar with the story and love the works of Shakespeare will of course have a better experience than those that don’t, but a more modern audience will most likely find the dialogue almost impossible to understand; however, this shouldn’t deter you from enjoying the visual and acting qualities of the film. Overall, this is one of the best Shakespearian adaptations of the last few years and certainly one that I feel will be highly regarded in the future.

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Let me see your war faces! Macbeth leads his men into battle in a scene from the film

RATING: 5/5 FINAL WORD: Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth is a phenomenal piece that flawlessly portrays everything from acting, writing and direction in the highest regard. Also it shows that the works of Shakespeare hold a place and can compete in the current world of film which is dominated with by Marvel superhero blockbusters.

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