Director: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, Elizabeth Debicki, David Thewlis
Run Time: 113 mins
Aussie director Justin Kurzel is the latest individual to bring a new version of what is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays to the big screen, however it is not just any adaptation. Kurzel’s adaptation has impressed many and was selected to compete at the Cannes Film Festival where it received a very strong reception. The film boasts a very strong cast with Michael Fassbender in the lead and Marion Cotillard as his ill-fated wife and both look likely to receive nominations in the upcoming Awards season. The fact that the film was picked up by the Weinstein Company to distribute is very promising and with their track record, it only strengthens the film’s Awards prospects.
‘Macbeth’ is a perfect film – it’s visually stunning, well-paced and boasts several incredible performances but the film’s perfection is completely undone with Kurzel’s decision to stick with Shakespearean language. I realise that I might not appreciate Shakespeare’s works as some others but the old English is hard to understand (particularly in gruff Scottish accents!) and the lengthy speeches and soliloquies bored me. If the script had a bit of an upgrade in language, I would without doubt be giving this film 5 stars, but it’s just too big an issue to ignore. Kurzel is able to put a personal stamp on the material by adapting the play into a war film – the battle sequences are very reminiscent of the ‘300’ films with plenty of slo-mo and they are heart-pounding to watch.
The set pieces are visceral, visually stunning and match the time period perfectly, particularly the opening battle sequence and Dunsinane. All this is achieved by Adam Arkapaw’s perfect cinematography which in my opinion is the best cinematography I have seen in a film in a couple of years – it’s stunning and the battle sequences in particular are exhilarating. Arkapaw manages to perfectly capture Scotland and includes many sweeping landscape shots which are breathtaking and perfectly lit. Arkapaw is a talent to watch. Another talented individual is Jed Kurzel’s (brother of director Justin Kurzel) exhilarating and emotional score for the film which compliments the scenes perfectly – the soundtrack also stands extremely strong in its own right and is one of my favourite scores of the year so far.
The performances in the film are Oscar material and Michael Fassbender is mesmerising as the titular character. He brings a lot of gravitas to the role and is the best performance of the film. Marion Cotillard plays his wife, Lady Macbeth and she also puts in a very strong performance who tempts Macbeth but unfortunately her French accent does come through a little bit. Her final scene at the end, where she is driven insane is incredibly performed and devastating. The supporting cast is made up of Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, Elizabeth Debicki and David Thewlis and all put in strong performances as well, particularly Sean Harris as Macduff who has an incredible scene towards the end of the film, learning of his wife and children’s death and he has an emotional breakdown – it’s simply amazing to watch.
Overall, Justin Kurzel and his talented crew have wonderfully realised ‘Macbeth’ and the film is visually stunning and features terrific performances. It’s just a real shame he decided to stick with Shakespearean English which I had a tough time watching and I just couldn’t enjoy the film as much as I wanted to because of this. As mentioned, I do acknowledge that I don’t appreciate Shakespearean language as some others might but as a personal review, I just couldn’t enjoy the film because of this and had a really tough time in places watching it. From my perspective, what ‘Macbeth’ does prove is that Kurzel is a talent to watch and with his magnificent visuals, he should be a very good match for the upcoming ‘Assassin’s Creed’ adaptation.