Film review: Macbeth

Macbeth: Michael Fassbender. Picture credit: PA Photo/Studio Canal.
Macbeth: Michael Fassbender. Picture credit: PA Photo/Studio Canal.
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  • Genre: Thriller/Drama/Action/Romance
  • Certificate: 15
  • Running time: 113 mins
  • Star rating: 9/10
  • Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, Elizabeth Debicki, David Thewlis, Jack Reynor, Paddy Considine, David Hayman, Lynn Kennedy, Seylan Baxter, Kayla Fallon. Director: Justin Kurzel

No holds Bard for Macbeth

The Scottish play bares its teeth and draws blood in Australian director Justin Kurzel’s muscular and unflinching adaptation that accentuates the carnage as the title character is undone by paternal grief and ambition.

Shot on location in England and Scotland, this Macbeth is stripped bare of Shakespeare’s lyrical language for the sake of drama and spectacle.

Purists may gnash their teeth at some of the alterations in Jacob Koskoff, Todd Louiso and Michael Lesslie’s script. The film opens with a funeral rather than the hurlyburly of the weird sisters, and Lady Macbeth is a brittle porcelain doll, likely to crack at the slightest emotional jolt, rather than a demented dynamo behind her husband’s ascension to the throne.

Michael Fassbender is front and centre throughout as the Thane of Glamis, whose encounter with a quartet of prophetic hags sets him on his ill-fated course.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) are inconsolable at the loss of their beloved son. On the battlefields, the Thane encounters a trio of witches (Lynn Kennedy, Seylan Baxter, Kayla Fallon) and a child (Amber Rissmann), who foretell his rise through the ranks and eventful coronation.

Aided by his wife, Macbeth murders the monarch and frames his manservants.

The king’s son Malcolm (Jack Reynor) flees and Banquo (Paddy Considine) - who is party to the witches’ proclamation - naturally suspects Macbeth’s trembling hand in the foul play...

Fassbender delivers a mesmerising lead performance of snarling intensity that overwhelms everyone else on screen, not least Cotillard as his wife in mourning, who doesn’t always seem comfortable with the iambic pentameter.

A cold, earthy colour palette reflects the icy blast of an ill wind that whips through every frame including majestic castle interiors where the scheming and treachery reach a horrifying crescendo.

By shooting on location in challenging conditions, Kurzel compels us to shudder in our seats and seek shelter from the raging storm of the lead character’s internal conflict.

However, there’s nowhere to hide from the double toil and trouble.