Film Review: Macbeth

Macbeth

Director Justin Kurzel delivers a haunting adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic. Macbeth is a sharp and often brutal cinematic retelling of the play.

Macbeth, a Thane of Scotland, receives a prophecy that he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition, Macbeth is spurred on by his wife to take action to claim the throne for himself…

Justin Kurzel, director of 2011’s Snowtown, has created powerful and evocative cinema with his version of Macbeth. The cinematography, setting, sound and screenplay combine to offer an adaptation that works fantastically on the big screen. Michael Fassbender delivers a commanding performance as the title character. He is ably aided by Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth and Sean Harris as a memorable Macduff.

Kurzel’s Macbeth has been trimmed from the original for the screen, as is necessary given the length of the play. The changes make the duration feel brisk, without losing the essence of the play. There are also some changes to the delivery and set-ups, but those enamoured with Shakespeare’s work will likely see the reasoning behind this.

Macbeth keeps the original Shakespeare dialogue. Whilst this may seem impenetrable, particularly for those less familiar with the bard’s plays, it actually works well within the context. This is because this version of Macbeth relies heavily on the visual, meaning that viewers will be able to follow the story even if they do not understand every word of the dialogue. The screenplay trims a significant amount of dialogue, with images helping to tell the story.

Justin Kurzel directs the action with a brusqueness that suits the overall tone. The film keeps the original period in its setting, and the battle sequences work well to depict the brutality of the time, whilst also mirroring the mindset of the protagonist. Macbeth’s descent into madness is concise but effective. Use of colour and composition in Macbeth is excellent. The sound, employed throughout, is a big element of the haunting atmosphere.

With striking performances and an evocative atmosphere, Kurzel’s Macbeth is a most admirable cinematic retelling of the Scottish play.