Review by Lauryn Angel
Murder, ghosts, witches, revenge and madness: elements of a great Shakespearean tragedy, and Macbeth is one of the Bard’s best. Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of Macbeth is many times brutal, but it’s also mesmerizingly beautiful.
For those who never read the play in high school or are perhaps rusty on the plot: Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is thane to Duncan, King of Scotland (David Thewliss). Following a brutal battle in Duncan’s name, Macbeth and his fellow soldier, Banquo (Paddy Considine) encounter the Weird Sisters, a group of witches who are scavenging the battlefield. The witches prophesy that Macbeth will be named Thane of Cawdor and later King of Scotland. Soon after, the first part of the prophesy is fulfilled, as Duncan names Macbeth Thane of Cawdor. Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) urges her husband to take the prophesy into his own hands and murder Duncan so he can take the throne for himself. The remainder of the play is essentially the fallout, as Macbeth’s guilt and ambition drive him into madness.
Screenwriters Todd Louiso, Jacob Koskoff and Michael Leslie preserve the language of the original play, but they trim the play here and there. (Gone is the “double, double, toil and trouble” bit, sadly.) Large portions of the film are without dialogue, though, as Kurzel develops the grim mood of the play with slow-motion battle scenes, intercuts between characters and through time, and wide shots of the rugged Scottish landscape. Jed Kurzel’s score combined with the ever-present mists create a mesmerizing spectacle, a stunning backdrop for Fassbender and Cotillard’s command performances.
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