Rated: R for strong violence and brief sexuality. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: December 4, 2015 Released by: The Weinstein Company
A grim squalor and haunting irony permeates this atmospheric interpretation of 11th Century Scottish-set Shakespeare. One which is rooted in murder, prophecy, and betrayal, and most definitely a visceral, if gloomily ferocious affair not for the feint of heart. For those into the Bard, this lyrical barbarity may connect with discerning patrons into vibrant, if unsettling cinema like Titus and Coriolanus. Even if the accents perhaps waver at times beyond credulity with arguably unintelligible discourse.
This streamlined Macbeth (others have been done by the likes of Orson Welles and Roman Polanski) stars a stealthily sturdy Michael Fassbender (Shame, Steve Jobs ,12 Years a Slave) and Marion Cotillard (The Immigrant, Midnight In Paris) with some creative visuals complements of Australian helmer Justin Kurzel (whose brother provides a moody stringy score). The very damp highlands is part of the desolate harrowing outdoors (where much of the action is set rather than dreary castles) vividly lensed by Adam Arkapaw (who has contributed to the HBO series "True Detective") to give it almost a decidedly Western aura.
From an audial perspective (especially in the early reels) an unfamiliarity with the source may be detrimental, not just the thick Scottish brogues. Still, Fassbender's Gen. Macbeth has a certain scarred vacuity about him from the war-torn battlefields and close-up with death and suffering. That is the approach sharply used by Kurzel for the distanced husband and wife with ambition and manipulation substituting for a void (not in the traditional megalomaniacal mode) where desires and tensions ultimately revolve around disquietude and iniquity.
How the soul is wracked is part of the crucial motif amidst bruising usurping action that recalls elements of HBO's Game of Thrones as well as Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Paranoia leads to homicidal unleashing even after the clandestine offing of King Duncan (David Thewlis) where even threats loom from friends like Banquo (Paddy Considine) and Duncan's protector Macduff (Sean Harris). The latter has gathered a English battalion to reclaim what is rightfully his.
From an early promise of the Three Witches (Seylan Baxter, Kayla Fallon, Lynn Kennedy, probably far from how their perceived from the page) the sense of entitlement is brutally felt and wrapped around a stress disorder (not so unlike what returning military forces from Islamic countries and Afghanistan experience). As well as the infertility after oyster shells are laid over the eyes of a perished son before a blazing, spooky funereal moment will trigger more heinous rampaging. Surprisingly, with the strident impulses of Lady Macbeth, Cotillard amazingly can still embody a modicum of understated clemency as the underlying players offer their personal complexions to the much appropriated rugged naturalism at hand.