Reel Talk: ‘Macbeth’ a Gruesome But Flawed Take On Shakespeare’s Play
I should preface this by saying I’ve never actually read Macbeth, but I thought I knew roughly what I was getting myself into. I was, more or less, wrong about this, but did end up being more confused than impressed with this film. Directed by Australian auteur, Justin Kurzel, the films sees distinguished soldier, Macbeth, become obsessed with obtaining the throne after a group of witches predict him the next king.
Stylistically, the film is nothing like the book. The stunning cinematography by Adam Arkpaw (True Detective)—which is honestly the best thing about this movie—shows off the brutal, unforgiving, yet stunningly beautiful nature of the Scottish Highlands. Additionally, the direction by Arkpaw is just as unflinching, showing a surprising amount of disturbing violence that highlights the film’s themes.
Other than these highlights, things get muddled pretty quickly. Something I knew going in—but which played out much differently on screen—is that everybody spoke still in Shakespearian language. At times, this is fascinating and impactful, but a lot of the time it ends up being confusing. Everybody mumbles very monotonously, and—as little dialogue as there is in the first place—a lot of it is expository and completely unnecessary. Most of the time I was left thinking, This scene would be a lot better if it were silent.
But that’s not to say the actors don’t do a fine job. Michael Fassbender plays Macbeth with a creepy; coldhearted insanity that slowly grows out of hand. The filmmakers actually intended him to have PTSD, which shows brilliantly in the performance, and is a really interesting take on the source material. Marion Cotillard also does solid work as Lady Macbeth, at first subtly controlling over her husband, but eventually driven mad by isolation and a growing sense of guilt.
Still, much of the film falls flat and lags because of the dialogue. When the scenery and emotions on display end up being more fascinating than what the characters are actually saying, you know there’s a problem. Also, some key plot points went over my head just out of difficulty of understanding the characters. But, see it for yourself; it is definitely a unique experience—before passing judgment on it.
Macbeth opens the 4th of December and also stars David Thewlis, Paddy Consadine, Jack Raynor, and Elizabeth Debicki.
Overall rating: 6.5 out of 10.