macbeth-2015-film-review

Directed by: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard


Growing up in a small town where we would be lucky enough to get a blockbuster film at our local cinema, let alone a film or play of Shakespeare’s work, I have only recently been introduced to the works of Shakespeare outside of Romeo and Juliet. When it comes to Macbeth especially, I haven’t seen any of the previous films or even properly read or watched the play.  This means that when I saw this film, I had the absolute pleasure to be one of the rare people to watch this with having no expectations.

Called to the promise of being King given by the four Weird Sisters and pushed by his wife, the grieving mother Lady Macbeth, hardened warrior Macbeth assassinates his kinsman King Duncan and assumes the throne. However, the guilt and clear post-traumatic stress drives him and his wife to madness and ends in tragedy.

Out of nowhere Australian director Justin Kurzel joins some of the greats by showing his own vision of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Without question, Kurzel managed to make this one of the more stunning films that I’ve ever seen. Sweeping wide shots, slow motion action and extreme colour contrasts seem to invade the screen, so much so that it almost takes away from the beauty of the story itself. The only downside to Kurzel trying to create an ‘arty’ film is the extremely noticeable CGI ash that rains down over the final battle which kept bringing me out of the moment.

Michael Fassbender, an actor who has never really let us down, plays a stoic, ruthless Macbeth; the only sign of madness shining out through his pleading, manic and on occasion bone-weary eyes. Fassbender decided to speak his monologues in an almost soft spoken voice, in contrast with his speeches to his subjects and the failed assassin where his madness is plainly shown as he yells and paces. His ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’ was haunting as he drags his dead wife around the room, speaking as almost an afterthought.

Opposite Fassbender, playing the scheming, ambitious and sensual Lady Macbeth is French actress Marion Cotillard. While her accent sometimes slips, really not fitting in with the other actors thick Scottish accents, she mostly transcends this in her portrayal. While on the outside her Lady Macbeth seems cold and calculating, it is later shown that she is in agony over the death of her child. Weeping in front of the soon to be burning family of Macduff, Cotillard very quickly turns the unlikable Lady Macbeth into a sympathetic character.

With the praise I’ve given the combined visual and audio feast and magnificent acting of Kurzel’s, Macbeth should have made me leave the cinema, sure of the fact that I had just seen one of the greatest Shakespeare adaptions to be created. Instead it left me with the feeling of being not quite sure if I liked the film or not. Despite this, the film was a fantastic attempt at the well-known tragedy and makes me excited to see the future of this new director’s career.