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MACBETH (15)

Review: a savage story captures reign of tyranny

Macbeth Michael FassbenderSet against the bleakly beautiful (and well photographed) Scottish moors and highlands, director Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth is Shakespeare stripped of grandeur and theatrics. A barren, stark landscape with little to no life seen, save for the characters the story centres on.

It’s a slow, somewhat dull beginning as dialogue is sparse and gritty artistry abounds, but from the brutal moment Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) murders Duncan (David Thewlis) we are absorbed into a violent and breathtaking reign of tyranny.

Marion Cotillard, as the conspiring and often vilified Lady Macbeth, brings a level of vulnerability and quiet realisation to the character, managing to illuminate the screen with her subtle performance.

Fassbender is believable in his breakdown, injecting a myriad of complex emotions into a man who is both sensitive and brutal, scared and increasingly unhinged. Other standouts include Sean Harris as Macduff ( the climax, as he and Macbeth fight, silhouetted against a fiery red and orange glow, is arguably the best part of the film), and David Thewlis, who brings gravitas to what amounts to little more than a cameo.

The score by Jed Kurzel, the director’s brother, is eerie and atmospheric, avoiding any stereotypical sounds while still managing to evoke the country in which it is set.

If there are any faults they are few: some overuse of slow-motion which causes things to drag in places, a strange half-coy approach to the violence, and some additions/differences to Shakespeare’s original text which may offend purists.

While not as youth-friendly and accessible as, say, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet (1996), Kurzel’s Macbeth is a version for the aficionados and the masses, telling a timeless story with straightforward savagery.

General release (113 minutes)

Rating: ****(*)

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