Sharing its name and based on one of William Shakespeare’s better known works, Macbeth is a cinematic performance of famous story. It takes some liberty with the source material, with some characters given less to do which may annoy some Shakespeare purists, but this isn’t problem in my mind. Whenever source material taken from a different medium, whether its Books, plays, comics or games, is turned into a film i don’t tend to agree with the idea that it needs to stick as close to the original as possible for the film to work.
Comic book movies are a great example, if you have read Days of Future Past, you’ll know last years X-Men with the same subtitle is very far from the events of the comic. This version of Macbeth is focused more on the man’s decline into madness than the plotting of his wife, Lady Macbeth, and doesn’t show that many scenes for the 3 witches, but it is still very much Macbeth.
Michael Fassbender plays the title role and delivers a brilliant performance. He succeeds in delivering the lines pulled straight from the book without making the film feel like a play recital. My favourite scene to show off his performance is just before the murder of king Duncan. You see how much this troubles Macbeth, and how torn he is between the king he serves and claiming that title for himself.
Marion Cotillard is strong as lady Macbeth, even if this version of the character isn’t as prominent as she is in other productions. Sean Harris plays Macduff, and Paddy Considine is Banquo, both supporting the lead well. They avoid falling into overacting as I think can be so easy when it comes to Shakespeare. The performances all contribute to making this feel more like a period piece than a dramatic retelling of an old tale.
The nature of Shakespeare works lending themselves more to theatre, and the language used by the characters, and the time period it I set would have made this a very difficult film to direct. Justin Kurzel does a really solid job, particularly in capturing the feel of the time period. The language could be a barrier to some, as it is not simplified at all and could lose you easily if you don’t pay full attention, particularly if you aren’t familiar with the story.
The biggest thing I took away from this film, perhaps strangely, is that this is definitely the right director for the upcoming Assassins Creed movie. The way Kurzel captures this time period is perfect for the AC franchise, where such a big part of the games has been recreating the feel of the era it is set in. The battle scenes are also well done, with slow motion shots being used in a way not dissimilar to the 300 films, but in a much grittier style. I may be revealing my love for the AC games here, but there is one moment with Fassbender running with two short blades taking down enemies that could have been taken straight from the Assassins movie.
Macbeth is a dark, brooding and brutal film, which captures the spirit of the classic Shakespeare story. It is the performances that elevate it though, and Fassbender leads the way. If you struggle with the Shakespearian lingo, it may be a painful watch. If you can make enough sense of it (I could keep up, but I’m sure I missed some things) it is definitely worth the effort.
9/10 – All Hail Macbeth