dir Justin Kurzel
scr Jacob Koskoff, Todd Louiso, Michael Lesslie
prd Iain Canning, Laura Hastings-Smith, Emile Sherman
with Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, David Thewlis, Elizabeth Debicki, David Hayman, Maurice Roeves, Seylan Baxter, Lynn Kennedy, Kayla Fallon
release UK 2.Oct.15, US Dec.15
15/UK StrudioCanal 1h53
Full of sound and fury: Cotillard and Fassbender

considine harris reynor
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Macbeth Grimy and grisly, this film adaptation of Shakespeare's Scottish play isn't easy to sit through. It features visceral performances from Fassbender and Cotillard, directed abrasively by gifted Australian filmmaker Kurzel. And Adam Arkapaw's cinematography is spectacular. But the sound mix is so murky that those unfamiliar with the play will be lost.

In 11th century Scotland, General Macbeth (Fassbender) is told by three witches (Baxter, Kennedy and Fallon) that he'll one day become king. Encouraged by his ambitious wife (Cotillard), Macbeth secretly murders King Duncan (Thewlis) and seizes the throne when the heir Malcolm (Reynor) flees suspiciously. Overwhelmed with paranoia, Macbeth embarks on a murderous rampage, getting rid of anyone he sees as a threat to his power, which includes his friend Banquo (Considine) and the former king's defender Macduff (Harris). Meanwhile, Malcolm has raised an army in England and is coming back to claim his throne.

Kurzel takes a viscerally grounded approach to these events, staging much of the action in the rainswept highlands rather than in gloomy castles, while adding a modern sensibility in vicious battle sequences that often look like something from Lord of the Rings. The effect of this brutality on the characters is palpable, and much of the film's power comes in wordless moments that emphasise the darkly conflicting yearnings that grip these people, as aspiration leads to violence and then, naturally, to guilt and fear.

Indeed, the central theme is how guilt eats away at the soul. Both Fassbender and Cotillard beautifully bring out the inner turmoil of people who know they are responsible for atrocities. The performances are a storm of power and doubt. So even if much of the dialog is impossible to decipher (more due to mumbling and growling than the Shakespearean verse), the gut-punch hits home. Side characters are also vividly well-played, adding texture and emotion.

Kurzel's inventive visuals bring the story and themes to life with brutal artistry. Most intriguing are the timeless themes, as the Macbeths' quest for power becomes a combination of battle weariness, post-traumatic stress and the pain of childlessness (the film opens with them burying an infant). Not to mention the witches' promise of fame and fortune, as if they're something Macbeth is entitled to. So they murder children because they can't have any of their own, then are flattened by the horrible irony.

cert 15 themes, violence, sexuality 6.Aug.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall