Film Review: 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.

Film Review: A Lonely Place to Die

A Lonely Place to Die offers viewers an interesting enough premise, but unfortunately the execution lets the film down.

A group of five mountaineers are climbing in the isolated Scottish Highlands when they hear someone calling out. Trying to ascertain where the sound is coming from, the group discover a young girl imprisoned in a small chamber in the ground. The girl speaks no English, so cannot explain what has happened to her. The group decide to take her back to safety, but the girl’s kidnappers are in hot pursuit…

Directed by Julian Gilbey, who co-wrote the script with Will Gilbey, A Lonely Place to Die is a modest-budget thriller. The film takes place in the Scottish Highlands and surrounding areas; it seems far removed from any metropolitan influence. Although the terrain is suitably isolated, more could have been made of the eeriness of the landscape.

There are some moments of tension in A Lonely Place to Die, but these diminish as the film becomes more and more implausible. The beginning of the film is quite promising, and the scene where the girl is found is well constructed. Nevertheless, the film does not sustain apprehension as it progresses, and is a bit of a sorry state by the time the climax is reached.

The dialogue is risible, despite a little bit of amusing banter. More harmful than this, however, is the complete lack of character development. None of the five climbers exhibit any kind of personality. The film does not make clear how they know each other, and the nature of their relationship (besides the married couple). There is no explanation of Alison’s accent either. The film does not begin in the midst of the action; there is an opening sequence where some of the group are climbing. Despite this opportunity to develop the main characters, the script does not explore the protagonists at all. Thus, it is difficult for viewers to get too involved with their later peril.

Performances in the film are mixed. Ed Speleers is the best of the bunch as climber Ed. Melissa George is patchy as Alison; at times the actress overdoes it. Eamonn Walker and Sean Harris have little choice but to play up to their one-dimensional stereotypes.

The camera work in A Lonely Place to Die is dizzying to the point of discomfort at the beginning of the film. The music can also be overbearing, at times it seems that the director is trying to force tension with these tricks. With tighter direction and a more convincing script A Lonely Place to Die could have been a decent film. Sadly it isn’t.