A beautiful and poetic interpretation, albeit a mildly abridged version, of Shakespeare's classic tragedy that was filled with gorgeous shots and a riveting, mesmerising performance by Michael Fassbender and an equally hauntiing and intense one from Marion Cotillard. Thankfully the subtitles helped with both the Shakespearean/Elizabethan English and the heavy heavy Scottish (and Irish and French and Fassbenderian) accents.
Director Justin Kurzel's first big film was assured and confident, and he managed to stage the film like a play but yet still fully-utilised the large screen capability of cinema to translate the grandeur and majesty of the story. However, the strength in his directing was really the closer and intimate portrayals of King and Lady Macbeth. Although that was also partially due to the strength of the actors.
I think it is great that actors of such calibre like Fassbender and Cotillard are willing to take a chance on Kurzel, and something must have gone right in their collaboration - and it really showed on screen - for all three to go a second round with the upcoming Assassin Creed movie.
The film was just shy of 2 hours long, so some scenes/moments would have expected to be cut and that definitely was not to the show's advantage. Especially to an audience not familiar with the platy. The narrative would have seemed rather disjointed and the relationships between some of the characters less explored and established to make their actions much sense. But of course the big moments - and soliloquies - were kept and aced by the stars.
Fassbender was amazing and absolutely commanded the screen, His portrayal of Macbeth's descent from hero to murderer, lord to tyrant, from being respected to being feared, was slow and methodical. And the way he sprouted Shakespeare's line demanded that they be listened to through the tonal inflections and the careful pauses. His fear, hesitation, anxiety and resignation translated through his speech and his face and his posture.
Cotillard held up gamely against Fassbender. Thankfully her Lady Macbeth avoided the usual cliches and was portrayed as an equal to Macbeth. Although, her descent to madness was not as overt but it was that simplicity that Cotillard wrought that made it so much more haunting.
Both Fassbender and Cotillard definitely deserve some recognition come award time, but Fassbender will be fighting against himself in Steve Job in an already crowded - yet seemingly mediocre - field; Cotillard may stand a chance to gain a nomination in the Best Supporting Actress.
Kudos to Adam Arkapaw for the gorgeous cinematography although the fire scenes was a tad too harsh (see: Roger Deakins' brilliant work at the end of Skyfall). Although his shooting of Top of the Lake and the first season of True Detective already made him a name to be excited for.
And also kudos to Jacqueline Durran for the stunning costumes, and Fiona Crombie for the excellent production design.
Kurzel has distilled Shakespeare's masterpiece into a worthy cinematic adaptation and ably captured the riveting performance of Fassbender and Cotillard to bring the Tragedy to life.