Directed by Justin Kurzel
Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jack Madigan
Every bit as ruthless and intense as you remember from reading the Bard's classic in your former British Lit class (or, perhaps, even more exciting, since you aren't just checking out the Cliff's Notes), Justin Kurzel's Macbeth rips through the tale of the Scottish monarchy with the type of energy generally saved for cinematic gladiators. Enriched with tight visuals and spectacularly poignant performances, Macbeth is unlike any recent Shakespeare adaptations to hit the big screen.
Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), the Thane of Glamis, is tightly wound and fervently strong, going into war with the type of all-thrills bravery any leading man character should possess. A chance meeting with three prophetic witches drives him to madness as he fulfills every point of the prophecy and becomes King of Scotland. Death and blood make their presence known, as does the Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), mind-bent on the crown, despite the evil that earning a new title would contain. The kingship isn't all it's cracked up to be, as the witches' prophecy includes a certain demise that makes itself known just when the stakes couldn't get any higher.
Making a quiet splash in the late fall/early winter box office, Macbeth is the kind of movie that deserve more notoriety than it will ever earn. Visually, director Kurzel delivers a beautifully simple package, complete with interesting set pieces and costumes, but only just enough to enhance the dialogue. As any Shakespeare play deserves, Macbeth serves as a perfectly resonate display of the intelligent prose.
The dialogue, however, wouldn't work without players willing to feel each and every note. Fassbender and Cotillard are more than game. With a brevity that exudes leading man, Fassbender allows physical strength to balance insecurities without skipping a beat. But, it's Cotillard, as the misguided and troubled Lady Macbeth, who deserves the most praise. The famous bloody hands scene is done with such subtlety and grace that it is easy to feel her confusion and despair. You almost feel sorry for her, despite her selfish actions. If there was ever an example needed to show the power of words, it's this scene. Nothing more is needed. Just Cotillard's focused face and a rich understanding of the pain and guilt.
Each and every aspect of Macbeth works perfectly, weaving from an almost swords-and-sandals battle film to a highly-realized performance art piece. Rich in awe and splendor and carried by poignant cinematography, it's a shame that this Macbeth is bound to undoubtedly live in English classrooms for eternity, instead of in the history books of cinema.
Runtime: 113 minutes