Macbeth review – a Shakespearean noir-thriller soaked with operatic verve

Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are a dream-team pairing in Justin Kurzel’s charismatic, but unsubtle, retelling of the Scottish play

Australian film-maker Justin Kurzel, famed for his harrowing crime movie Snowtown, has tackled Shakespeare’s noir-thriller prototype Macbeth with operatic verve and an appetite for textual interpretation. As Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are a dream-team pairing, actors who radiate pure heady charisma, perhaps more than can be entirely absorbed into the fabric of the film.

The film team review Macbeth

As ever, Cotillard – wounded, watchful – is able to give to the camera extraordinarily nuanced meanings without saying a word. Fassbender is perhaps less assured with Macbeth’s introverted vulnerability but always effortlessly virile and watchable, portraying Macbeth’s outbursts of anger and crazed resentment as he reinforces his usurper’s position with an escalating series of violent acts.

Right off the bat, Kurzel begins with a bold flourish. Tackling the perennial question of the couple’s evident childlessness and Lady Macbeth’s mysterious later allusions to breastfeeding, he starts with the two attending their infant’s funeral. Kurzel’s version intuits the way that Lady Macbeth’s grief is twisted into murderous ambition, even subliminally suggesting that the weird sisters are a supernatural manifestation of her anguish. Kurzel’s other flourish is the insolent way Macbeth behaves with his speech after Duncan is murdered: “Had I but died an hour before this chance / I had lived a blessed time …” It is as if he is brazening the thing out or maybe already withdrawing into his own psychotic and delusional world. Unsubtle this Macbeth may be, just occasionally. But it’s physical and exciting.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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