Macbeth

Year: 2015
Director: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, Paddy Considine
Written by Nick Deal

My love for Shakespeare, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard meant that the release of ‘Macbeth’ was one of the most highly-anticipated dates in my cinema diary. The thrilling trailers did nothing to quench my thirst and I was beyond excited to see this latest adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous and celebrated of plays. Early noises from the film critic community were generally positive too – I was uncontainable.

For those of you who don’t know the story of the Scottish play, Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is a loyal general of King Duncan (David Thewlis), and after leading Duncan’s forces to victory against a group of traitors to the crown, Macbeth is rewarded with a promotion. This event was foretold by three mysterious women, who also told Macbeth that he would become King of Scotland. Powered by this knowledge, and with a fair bit of encouragement from his ambitious wife Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), the deadly duo set out on a mission of personal gain to see Macbeth crowned King of Scotland, and will go to any length to see that he reigns supreme north of the border. His journey to the crown is far from plain sailing, however, as his countrymen Banquo (Paddy Considine) and MacDuff (Sean Harris) begin to suspect foul play.

Fassbender is wonderful as our titular character. He is completely believable in the role and looks very much at home with a scraggy ginger beard and war paint strewn across his body. His performance delivered the complex array of emotions that his character demands very well, and as a result he completely steals the show, as you would expect. A fantastic performance that will probably see him compete for major awards this year, without the expectation of winning too many. I also enjoyed the performance of Sean Harris as MacDuff. He was the embodiment of passion and the desire for justice that I hoped he would be. David Thewlis should also be commended on his brief appearance as the ill-fated King Duncan. He was arguably the only non-Scottish member of the cast to master the accent. A performance I was underwhelmed by was Marion Cottilard’s performance of Lady Macbeth. Seen by many as one of the best female characters in literature, I was left somewhat perplexed by her in this film. Don’t get me wrong, she’s very good at times, but her performance was massively inferior to Fassbender’s. I would attribute this to a lack of character development, where we didn’t see anywhere close to the depth her twisted mind required, at least in comparison to Macbeth himself. So it’s not completely her fault – I guess I was more underwhelmed by her character’s representation rather then specifically her performance. You can only do your best with the tools you’re given after all. To that effect, I though the film lost momentum in the middle, and an in depth exploration of Lady Macbeth would have filled that void nicely.

Visually, this film is stunning. The landscape that provides the backdrop for the majority of the film is mesmerisingly beautiful, as well as being extraordinarily bleak at the same time. The use of slow motion was a nice idea and an effective one at that, for the first ten minutes at least. After that, its extensive use became somewhat tedious. However, the climactic battle scene is also one of the most visually impressive sequences I have seen; completely and utterly immersive, as well as beautifully shot. Whilst Fassbender and Cotillard may not be guaranteed acting awards as a result of this film, do not be surprised to see the cinematography team nominated. On a visual level, this film is up there with anything I’ve seen this year, so watch out for Adam Arkapaw’s name at the ceremonies. 

If you’re an avid Shakespeare fan, and a lover of artistic cinema, then this is, I think, a very good and accurate adaptation of one of the best-loved plays of all time. It is a film that I fear will be lost on the masses, and as a result won’t be a film that will be remembered too fondly by most. Whilst the Shakespearean English proved to be no barrier at all for me personally (I wouldn’t be a very good English Literature student if it had), there are people who will struggle with the dialogue, not helped by the fact that some lines were delivered at nothing more then a mumble. I would recommend familiarising yourself with the story before making the trip to the cinema, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend going to see ‘Macbeth’ as a whimsical afterthought. You have to be fully committed and determined to see it. I personally liked this film though, and would endorse a visit to see it, but with the warning that you could be completely underwhelmed and nonplused by this latest adaptation of the Scottish play – it all depends on your expectations and your level of comfortability with Shakespearean tales.

Nick’s rating: 7.9 out of 10
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