Directed By: Justin Kurzel

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, Elizabeth Debicki, and David Thewlis

Here we are again with yet another Shakespearean adaptation at the box office. The fun thing about reviewing these films is that the narrative hardly ever factors into my review.  It's all about the execution and the overarching creative vision driving each big screen take on the famed playwright’s theatrical works (if he wrote them).  The directors are always tasked with bringing these tales back to life in fresh ways that reinvigorate the source material and audiences alike.  Just look to Ralph Fiennes's futuristic take on Coriolanus or Joss Whedon's retro take on Much Ado About Nothing in recent years.  With all this in mind, I look at Justin Kurzel's Macbeth through a different lens.  Though largely staying true to the source material in a relatively traditional way, Kurzel gets points for style.

Grieving the death of their child, Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) and Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) are suffering a fate no parents should ever have to endure.  After a battle, Macbeth and his friend Banquo (Paddy Considine) meet three witches (Seylan Baxter, Lynn Kennedy, Kayla Fallon and Amber Rissmann) and are given differing fates. The witches proclaim Macbeth to soon be the Thane of Cawdor and the future king of Scotland, while Banquo is fated to be the father of future Scottish kings.  Considering the battle they just won concluded a civil war stabilizing support for their king Duncan (David Thewlis), both Macbeth and Banquo are skeptical to say the least of the witches’ claims.  The witches subsequently disappear.

Shortly after Macbeth's encounter with the witches, King Duncan learns of the warrior's deeds on the battlefield and names him Thane of Cawdor.  Taking stock in the witches' proclamations after learning of them, Lady Macbeth begins to pray on the situation and plant dark ideas in the mind of her husband.  These ideas turn into sins when Duncan stays one night with them.  Macbeth and Lady Macbeth go down a dark road of terrible, bloody deeds that cannot be undone in the name of wearing the Scottish crown.  It all begins with viciously murdering Duncan as he rests in the very bed they’ve provided him that night.  As Macbeth dances with the dark side to attain royalty, the seeds of animosity are planted with Scottish noble Macduff (Sean Harris).

Functioning as a period war thriller, Justin Kurzel's Macbeth is a rousing adaptation of the beloved play that reels moviegoers in and doesn’t let go.  Dark, brooding, and brutal, Kurzel’s take on the Shakespearean play is one to remember.  You can see it in the grainy, gray cinematography that creates a grim world and the equally gritty makeup and costumes to create the characters that inhabit this world.  You can hear it in the thunderous, violent score that fuels grand moments throughout the film, both on and off the battlefield.  You can feel it in the measured pacing of the narrative and dialogue that occasionally culminates in furious bursts at just the right moments.  Macbeth may not significantly deviate from the source material, but Kurzel’s stylized vision manages to bring this material to life in quite a vigorous way.  Just look to the hellacious climax he creates with reddish orange cinematography on a smoke-filled battlefield as a slice of the impressive, thrilling filmmaking at hand here.  Moreover, Macbeth joins the ranks of other adaptations in recent years on the back of Kurzel's strong filmmaking.
Beyond just Kurzel, however, the film relies heavily on the performances of its actors, who take their characters on emotional journeys and put it all out there for moviegoers to enjoy.  For his part as our titular character Macbeth, the esteemed actor digs deep for a dark performance full of rage and vitriol.  There’s a very raw quality to his portrayal of the haunted warrior that makes it so enjoyable.  Fassbender has the acting chops to delve to a dark emotional place where few actors can go, and he certainly does this here.  In doing so, he delivers something truly special as the tyrannical king, especially as he begins flirting with madness.  For her part as Lady Macbeth, Marion Cotillard delivers one slippery performance.  A little more grounded than her on-screen husband, Cotillard offers a more tragic turn as a co-conspirator plagued with guilt.  Finally, we have Sean Harris once again demonstrating his capacity to play tough characters in his portrayal of Macduff.  The Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation star once again delivers yet another fiery performance as the Scottish nobleman.

gets a 0.03% rating.  This war thriller is the perfect counterprogramming to lighter fare at the mainstream box office or awards season contenders targeted at voting bodies.  It's a great Shakespearean adaptation for its own sake.  Have some wine coolers with this one.