Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth is a film at odds with itself. It’s filmed in a distinctly modern style, with plenty of slo-mo cameras that evoke more 300 than Braveheart. However, its incredibly old-fashioned in its refusal to deviate from Shakespearean prose, or to crack a smile in the middle of a tragedy. It’s stuffy stuff, steeped in blood and dirt but with the personal remove of the familiar prose. The actors are all fine, but the words often don’t match the pictures. The out-damned-spot monologue is essential, but gone is the washbasin, leaving its delivery unnatural and seemingly forced to fit the play. Modern views of Shakespeare consistently veer towards metaphor for the sake of metaphor, and this one does so more than most.
However, there are things to like, and this Macbeth is sure to be a fine version to show in Grade 12 English (lots of violence, no boobs!). Fassbender plays Macbeth as much fiercer than other depictions, never gaining our sympathy for a moment, but has gravitas to spare. Cotillard plays the early scheming Lady Macbeth to a tee, but dissolves for her descent. The cinematography has its moments, notably the final smoky red battle sequence. It all adds up to something watchable, if not an exciting reason to get back into Shakespeare. The score however is fantastic, with droning strings fitting this less human take on the story. It often drowns out the prose, but honestly, I’d rather the strings sometimes.
Dir. Justin Kurzel
Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, and David Thewlis
Rotten Tomatoes (80%)