As the Thane of Glamis, Michael Fassbender is to the manor born in a truly cinematic variation.


Thane and gory: Michael Fassbender


Often when one thinks of Macbeth one thinks of Shakespeare. However, there’s little Shakespeare in Justin Kurzel’s visual reimagining of all that blood and madness on the blasted heath. Kurzel, who made his film debut with the intelligent, disorientating and disturbing true-life drama Snowtown, takes the essence of Shakespeare’s tale here and breathes a visceral reality into it. The text is trimmed to its bare essentials which, considering some muddy diction, is perhaps a blessing, while the rugged topography of the Isle of Skye takes centre stage.


The film opens brilliantly as young soldiers (barely into their teens) are daubed with war paint and the battle begins. Then the Witches – four, not three – emerge from the mist and cast their prophecy upon the rabid imagination of a bloodied Macbeth, Thane of Glamis. As the latter, Michael Fassbender looks to the manner born and keeps a tight rein on both Macbeth’s psychosis and Scottish accent. He’s Scottish, of course, but a nobleman too, while his madness is subtle enough to unhinge rather than traumatise any onlookers.


There is much whispering in Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth and, like the dialogue, the music – evocatively supplied by the director’s brother Jed – is kept to a minimum. Less convincing is Marion Cotillard as the thane’s flame who, for all her pride and conviction, seems out of place. Her accent is certainly not Scottish and some of her dialogue gets lost. The strongest presence of all is supplied by Sean Harris as Macduff, who almost steals the film from Fassbender. But the true star is Adam Arkapaw, whose bleak and atmospheric cinematography you just want to freeze and download as wallpaper. The make-up is equally deserving of an Oscar and, with Bob and Harvey Weinstein serving as producers, is likely to get one [it didn’t, and Harvey moved on to pastures new]. However, if the film fails to grip on a human level – and will leave Bard buffs browned off – it has cinematic power to spare.




Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, Elizabeth Debicki, David Thewlis, David Hayman, Maurice Roëves, Ross Anderson, James Harkness, Hilton McRae.


Dir Justin Kurzel, Pro Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Laura Hastings-Smith, Screenplay Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie and Todd Louiso, Ph Adam Arkapaw, Pro Des Fiona Crombie, Ed Chris Dickens, Music Jed Kurzel, Costumes Jacqueline Durran.


Film4/DMC Film/Anton Capital Entertainment/Creative Scotland/See-Saw Films-StudioCanal.

112 mins. UK/France/USA. 2015. Rel: 2 October 2015. Cert. 15.