12 October 2015 | BillSims28
Five Word Review: Extraordinarily Acted Gritty Shakespearean Drama
William Shakespeare's most famous (and quotable) tragedy has not had a major big-screen adaptation that has stayed faithful to the play in many a year. Justin Kurzel's film attempts to provide a definitive cinematic version of the iconic play with this gritty, war-based work of drama starring Michael Fassbender (Oscar-nominated for "12 Years a Slave, 2013) in the eponymous role and Marion Cotillard, who won the award for her role in Edith Piaf biopic "La Vie en Rose," 2007.
As a quick word of warning: if you've not read any Shakespeare, then I'd advise you not to watch this film. Rife with Shakespearean language told through coarse Scottish accents, this is not a story easy to follow for those unfamiliar with it. Having studied the Scottish play in school, I can bring you up to speed if you're unaware - Macbeth is a Scottish thane (equivalent of a lord) who sees a premonition of witches after winning a battle. The witches' prophecies trigger a spiral which sends Macbeth beyond sanity. And a character-based war drama is, in my opinion, the perfect direction to go in for a Macbeth adaptation. I always thought in school of what a good film Macbeth would be if made with sweeping battle scenes and a rough, gritty take on the tale. This is what Kurzel does, to great success. The first thing to note is the acting. Easily his best role (which is saying something,) Michael Fassbender portrays the flawed deterioration of the eponymous protagonist with gravitas yet often relatable humanity, even as his deeds become more and more ghastly (a scene with stakes is especially hard to watch.) It will be interesting to see how Fassbender's upcoming performance in Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs biopic compares to this. An Oscar nod is almost inevitable; it would be a travesty for him not to gain a nomination for this. Marion Cotillard is not to be over- shadowed in a role which would require a considerable lack of talent to play badly. Luckily the French actress has that talent in spades and at first she brings to the table hardened resolve before the true extent of Macbeth's madness is revealed and her acting changes accordingly with an impeccable change-over.
Also good is the haunting score and stunning Scottish scenery, bleak yet beautiful in a cold, austere way. The supporting turns from David Thewlis as King Duncan, Sean Harris as Macduff and Paddy Considine as Banquo are also all fantastic. In addition the ending is unexpected, but in a good way.
There's little bad to be said about the technique that went into the process of making Macbeth. The only things which detract are the admittedly shallow complaint that the dialogue, and therefore the story, is often hard to understand due to the coarse accents and antiquated language. This does sometimes have the effect of ruining scenes due to being taken out of it trying to understand the speech. Also, the slow motion is used rather poorly. Too much to be used effectively, with the slow motion lingering a little too long mid-battle, but not enough to be part of the visual style like Zack Snyder's 300. However, apart from this Justin Kurzel's Macbeth is a masterfully made film that may not win over those unfamiliar with the source material but will be a true treat for fans of Shakespeare and cinema. 79/100.