Saturday 5 March 2016


Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

-William Shakespeare, Macbeth

 Ol’ William Shakespeare is no stranger to Hollywood. From the countless straight-up adaptations of his work to the more unusual, like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and Gil Junger’s 10 Things I Hate About You, fans of the bard can escape into his stories on-screen with endless choices. Some aren’t great (2013’s Romeo & Juliet was particularly slammed) and some are very meh and forgettable, but when done right, these films can be absolutely incredible instant classics. Most recently, Justin Kurzel had a shot at directing an adaptation of Macbeth, my favourite Shakespeare play. How did he get on? Bloody brilliantly.

Out now on DVD & Blu-ray, Kurzel’s adaptation is a dark, visually stunning experience that breathes new life into the iconic tale of power and madness. For those who don’t know the classic play, it tells the story of Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), a man who murders the King of Scotland to seize the throne for himself. But as his tyrannical rule goes on, his mind becomes ‘full of scorpions’ and he succumbs to guilt, paranoia and madness. It is a haunting tale of the corruption power can bring, and a story that is timeless in its ideas. But with Kurzel’s adaptation being one of many cinematic versions of the classic play, what makes this one the best yet? And why did the film get a ten minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival? Everything will be revealed…

Firstly, the performances across the entire cast are phenomenal. Fassbender is mind-blowingly good as the mad Macbeth, bringing us one third of his amazing 2015 output that also included Steve Jobs and Slow West – funnily enough, all 3 of these films this year were in my top 10 of the year. The film completely belongs to The Fass, a man who will rule Hollywood if he carries on at this rate - but we mustn’t forget the rest of the cast. Marion Cotillard puts in a very good performance as the iconic Lady Macbeth, while Paddy Considine’s Banquo and Sean Harris’ Macduff are played perfectly. Two David’s, Thewlis and Hayman, also impress as Duncan and Lennox respectively. Being Shakespeare, the cast are all incredibly intense and theatrical in their performances which gives everyone time to truly shine.

But even if the performances were all shit, Macbeth would still be an incredible experience. Kurzel’s direction, along with Adam Arkapaw’s cinematography and director Justin’s brother Jed’s score, make the film one of the most visceral and intense viewing experiences in recent history – and certainly the most intense adaptation of a Shakespeare play. The battle scenes are among the most violently beautiful and hauntingly poetic in cinema, with gorgeously executed slow-motion and colour. Yes, Macbeth is a visual feast. It is one of those rare films where you could grab any frame from it, and stick it on the wall of an art gallery. This is incredibly exciting for the highly anticipated upcoming Assassin’s Creed movie, which will reunite director Kurzel with cinematographer Arkapaw – we are in very safe hands here, ladies and gentlemen. This could be the video game movie, although it doesn’t exactly have any strong competition…

Do not dismiss Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth as just another Shakespeare adaptation. While it failed to make back its large budget (estimated between $15-20 million), this is by no means because it’s a bad film. Unfortunately, audiences today just aren’t smart enough to understand and enjoy it. There’s no car chases, explosions or nudity in it so it must be bad, right? I’m sure Michael Bay’s Macbeth would be an enormous success...But you’re not like that, are you dear reader? I thought not. You’ll love this, because you’re sophisticated. I like you. Macbeth is one of the finest films of last year and a truly unforgettable experience.

Something wicked this way comes. Hail Macbeth. 5/5.


Sam Love

Macbeth at CeX

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