MACBETH (UK | USA | France/TBC/113mins)
Directed by Justin Kurzel. Starring Muichael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jack Reynor, David Thewlis, Paddy Considine.
THE PLOT: As Scotland tears itself apart with civil war, Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) hears a prophecy from a trio of witches, saying he will one day be king of the country he is fighting for. Pushed into action by his manipulative wife (Marion Coitillard), Macbeth takes matters into his own hands, and decides to make the prophecy come true.
THE VERDICT: MACBETH is the final film to screen In Competition at Cannes in 2015, directed by Justin Kurzel, whose 2011 film SNOWTOWN played at the Critics Week’s selection at Cannes that year. While it is heartening to see a talented director move through the ranks of the festival and return to compete for the Palme D’Or, there are serious issues with his adaptation of Macbeth.
Michael Fassbender takes on the role of the title character and, although his presence on screen is magnetic and strong, it is often heard to hear what he is saying, since he mumbles his way through much of the Shakespearean dialogue in a thick Scottish accent. Marion Cotillard’s presence is equally as strong but she too suffers from audibility problems. That said, when the two come together – and can be understood – they are a force to be reckoned with in terms of sheer skill and screen presence. The rest of the cast – David Thewlis, Jack Reynor, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris and David Heyman – also suffer since they are often unintelligible.
Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie and Todd Louiso’s screenplay has removed chunks out of Shakespeare’s original story, which works for the most part, but does leave some choices made by characters feeling surprising and unexpected.
Director Justin Kurzel has moved away from the gritty feel of SNOWTOWN, making Macbeth look and feel like a war movie, with a lyrical and beautiful quality. The cinematography is simply stunning, and the choices to use both slow motion and speeded up footage add to the confusion felt by Macbeth as he fights to make the witches’ prophecy come true. That said, however, much of the cast spend the film mumbling into one another’s faces, rendering heir dialogue inaudible – the French subtitles at Cannes went some way to helping with this – and the choice to have score music playing almost consistently through the film only serves to make this worse.
In all, MACBETH is sure to be a strong adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, but since so much of the film is unintelligible, the power of the performances is lost in an auditory jumble.
RATING: 2.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Review by Brogen Hayes
  • filmbuff2011

    For a play that’s over 400 years old, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, or less superstitiously The Scottish Play, still continues to fascinate. You can certainly see shades of it in the recent House Of Cards, as Frank Underwood lies, deceives and even kills his way to the top. A new film version is a welcome return to the source material. Mourning the death of his son, Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is a Scottish warrior who finds himself promoted after battle by King Duncan (David Thewlis). His loyal right-hand man Banquo (Paddy Considine) is with him all the way. Less certain is Macduff (Sean Harris), who doesn’t trust Macbeth. Wandering the Highlands, Macbeth hears a prophecy from three witches that he will be king. Now that her husband has moved one step closer to seizing the crown, Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) goads her husband on to kill King Duncan and make a play for power. He slips in like an assassin at night and commits murder most foul, thereby making himself king. But the path to power is paved with blood and Macbeth becomes paranoid that others like Banquo, Macduff and their heirs will seize power from him. There will be blood… Australian director Justin Kurzel follows up his disturbing but impressively acted debut Snowtown with a film that is equally moody and well acted. This Macbeth is strong on atmosphere, playing down the supernatural elements while amping up the earthy, gritty, in-your-face realism. The witches are not stock types from central casting – they’re grim women whose prophecies are laced with doom, rather than hope. Macbeth is too consumed with his lust for power and his mind afull of scorpions to notice their real meanings. That is his downfall. With Kurzel and his screenwriters Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie and Todd Louiso paring back the text and keeping the film tight at just under 2 hours, this is a lean, mean Macbeth that is as visually spectacular as it is intense. There’s no room for throwaway humour here. Shot in the Isle of Skye and other impressively desolate locations, there’s a firm sense that the landscape is a character too – one that is used to being soaked in blood. Fassbender brings his customary intensity and animal physicality to the role, delivering his lines with determination. Cotillard is a superb Lady Macbeth, both moving and snake-like in equal parts. A strong supporting cast of quality actors also includes our own Jack Reynor. Whether it’s the definitive screen version of Macbeth is really down to personal interpretation. For this reviewer, it may well qualify. While it may lack the emotional weight of Roman Polanski’s 1971 version, it does have a very distinct visual style and constant strain of dread running through it that makes it a very unique and distinctive cinematic experience. For that alone, get thee to a cinema and see it anon. ****

  • searcher2015

    Macbeth is a must-see, five-star masterpiece. This is visceral, visual Shakespeare at its peak. The musical score chilling and intimidating, the non-CGI open-air sets visually stunning. From the opening sequence, it grabs your guts and drags them around for the next two hours. Michael Fassbender, the new Olivier, excels as Macbeth, Sean Harris’ rage as Macduff seeps from the digital screen through the aisles of the cinema. Not for the faint of heart, see it for you will not see its like again.

  • emerb

    With “Macbeth”, Australian director Justin Kurzel gives us a thrilling, intelligent and visually inventive overhaul of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Macbeth is perhaps Shakespeare’s most complex and compelling character and Kurzel’s film gives us a new take on this fascinating story of all-consuming passion, ambition and greed. Starring Michael Fassbender as the murderous Macbeth who teeters on the edge of madness and Marion Cotillard as his Lady, Kurzel sets out to explore this man in his own stylistic version of the classic play. The film retains its setting in a savagely inhospitable, grimy Scottish landscape and much of Shakespeare’s words but the director is brave enough to reassemble much of the familiar and I think it’s fair to say that he gives us an ingenious, unforgettable version.

    Macbeth is a duke of Scotland who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King. Encouraged by his wife and hungry for power, he murders the King to take the throne for himself. The film opens with Macbeth (Fassbender) and Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) touchingly setting their dead child on a pyre in a moment of horror and grief, with the meeting of the three
    witches. The witches are a trio who gather in the mist to discuss Macbeth’s fate. Soon after, we are in the first of the film’s remarkable battle scenes which is bloody, bruising and vicious. The carnage and chaos of medieval warfare is heightened by the clever use of slow motion interlaced with the gory details.

    The success of the film is due in large part to a number of powerful performances. Fassbender is excellent as the man of violence, savagery and bloodlust who, as a fearless warrior and a grieving parent, is wrapped in death from the outset. The fact that he is a tortured and haunted man is convincingly depicted by Fassbender. Some of his scenes really stand out – such as when he is crazed during the banquet scene or chillingly psychopathic sending Banquo (Paddy Considine) to his death. Ultimately, he becomes so committed to the seizure of power that the costs are irrelevant and we watch the tragic decline and unravelling of a troubled man gone bad who finds murder too easy and too mundane not to do again and again. It’s worth noting that his vocal delivery is immaculate also.

    Cotillard also gives an impeccable performance and there is no doubting that the two actors have a rapturous chemistry together. She begins as ruthless, plotting and ambitious but gradually descends into despair and bewilderment as her husband reinforces his position with an escalating series of killings. She learns a bitter lesson in the end as the consequences of her actions play out in her husband’s murderous reign and her own alienation from the man she loved. Cotillard really fleshes out the character, making her more human than many traditional interpretations of the role. She is not just a scheming, blood-letting
    woman but one driven by frustration and grief. She is intent on protecting her husband, but she is also horrified and distraught over his actions consistently throughout the film. I think her admirable work will surely get her noticed at awards season. The rest of the cast are admirable and give intensely committed performances too, particularly Sean Harris, who is a revelation as the ever watchful Macduff. Jack Reynor brings nobility to Malcolm, David Thewlis lends gravitas as Duncan and Paddy Considine’s Banquo is superb.

    “Macbeth” benefits from Kurzel’s keen eye and close attention to detail but also the impressive talents of cinematographer Adam Arkapaw’s whose camerawork is superb. For the most part, shooting takes place in gruelling and harsh exteriors in the wilds of Scotland and also the Gothic interiors of Ely Cathedral and he exposes all the most hostile facets of the region’s beauty. He creates a harsh but beautiful atmosphere with the ever-present mists, glens and sweeping
    panoramas. The director’s brother Jed Kurzel provides the score, notable
    for its loud pounding and deep bass notes. The marvellous collaboration between period-loving production designer Fiona Crombie and Jacqueline
    Durran’s beautiful costuming produces visually impressive and creative work.
    Along with the admirable work from Kurzel, kudos to screenwriters Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie and Todd Louiso who have adapted the text of Shakespeare’s much beloved classic play and then interpreted it intelligently and imaginatively yet without becoming simplistic. However, I do think that a knowledge of the basic
    plot beforehand would ensure easier understanding as Shakespeare’s English
    can be highly stylized and intense. I can see the appeal of this movie extending to a wide variety of audiences. Along with the play appearing in many school curriculae, the growing box-office draw of Michael Fassbender and his charismatic sex appeal opposite the ever excellent and completely persuasive Cotillard should ensure good success worldwide. “Macbeth” is not for the faint hearted, it is a film completely immersed and obsessed with death, corpses and the bloody brutality of war in an uncivilised 11th Century Scotland but the outstanding blockbuster battle scenes, utterly believable performances and remarkable staging make this version of “Macbeth” quite simply superb and without a doubt the best version I have ever seen.

  • Randy

    I have been looking forward to what seemed like a more naturalistic and visually stunning adaptation. In the end, however, it failed to woo me over. I thought that Marion Cotillard’s involvement would signal an even more compelling take on the fascinating character that is Lady Macbeth but instead, her portrayal is very much sidelined, more understated than in previous theatre and film adaptations. In contrast to Polanski’s 1971 adaptation, while this film boasts a truly stunning cinematography, the essential ingredients that make Macbeth such a relevant and entertaining piece are very much missing. In an attempt to seem more naturalistic, the lines are mumbled, the sets are more rural but “vaulting ambition” barely registers. The characters move through the motions, act after act, not putting much life into the lines they’re saying. While Fassbender is good at what he does, he’s hardly compelling in this role. I’d suggest that schools, studying Shakespeare could see this but otherwise the film stumbles under its own ambition and artifice and doesn’t get to essence of Shakespeare. 1/5