Synopsis: After murdering King Duncan (David Thewlis) and seizing the throne, Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) becomes consumed with guilt and paranoia as the tyrannical ruler of Scotland.
Release Date: December 4, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Like most of Shakespeare’s plays, Macbeth is a story that has graced the silver screen its fair share of times. Some productions choose to play it in a modern context, others adapt Shakespeare’s dialogue to a common tongue, and some simply play it straight. Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth adapts Shakespeare as only a film could, putting the story into its correct setting and context, and preserving all of the sharp dialogue. It is, for all intents and purposes, exactly what Shakespeare fans will expect from a cinematic adaptation, outside of a few areas in which the story is trimmed.
That being said, there are already plenty of well-made “Macbeth” adaptations, and this version doesn’t do much to convey its importance. Yes, the production value is higher because of the budget and the acting is top notch, but there’s little reason to recommend this film over any of the others. In fact, the flaws in its production, mainly dialogue that can be extremely mumbly, are reason enough to turn off the casual observer. Shakespearean dialogue is tough to chew on as it is, and so any inaudibility in its delivery makes the already-complex exposition a slog to digest. To be fair, the mumbly delivery is likely a byproduct of the film’s approach, which seeks to put the story in its appropriate context, but some will come away saying, “I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying.”
Production values on Macbeth are extremely high and the amount of atmosphere created with sparse locales is very impressive. The film even has a textural quality to it, in the way it uses smoke to fill out the frame or the way ash wafts in from every direction. Oftentimes Shakespeare feels otherworldly because of its dialogue, but this version of Macbeth has a historically accurate quality to it that makes it feel more authentic.
Shakespeare fans will certainly come away from Macbeth dubbing it a worthy adaptation of a masterwork, though it isn’t without flaws. Muddled dialogue is an issue for those trying to dig deeper into Shakespeare’s prose, but the essentials are still effectively communicated thanks to the film’s strong acting. However, there’s still the sense that this Macbeth doesn’t stand out from any of the other great cinematic adaptations in terms of its approach to the material. For all intents and purposes, this is a straight forward adaptation that delivers exactly what you expect. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for a story that makes its viewers work to find deeper meaning it would have been nice to see something unique.
Where Macbeth does shine is in its performances, namely that of lead actor, Michael Fassbender, who perfectly portrays the Scottish king as a tortuous soul. His descent into madness is well-realized and well-captured on film, allowing the audience to understand the bare essentials of the story, even if they can barely hear the dialogue. In truth, Macbeth feels like a role tailor made for Fassbender and he relishes every moment on screen. The film itself may not stand out against some of the better adaptations, but Fassbender’s performance is of a very high caliber.
Equally impressive is Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth. Cotillard imbues the character with a stoic intensity that instantly makes the viewer uneasy and she nails the bigger moments. Her “Out damn spot” monologue is moving and heartbreaking, and is easily a standout scene from the film.
All around, Macbeth‘s cast is peppered with veteran actors of stage and screen who fill out their respective roles well. Again, their delivery may be a little too naturalistic and therefore harder to hear and understand, but they’ve clearly done their homework to do right by the source material.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Justin Kurzel
- Screenwriter(s): Jacob KoskoffMichael LesslieTodd Louiso
- Cast: Michael Fassbender (Macbeth)Marion Cotillard (Lady Macbeth)Paddy Considine (Banquo) David Thewlis (Duncan)
- Editor(s): Chris Dickens
- Cinematographer: Adam Arkapaw
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA