MACBETH – A Review by John Strange

By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
If you are like me, you had to read many of Shakespeare’s plays in your school years.  Over the years there have been many films have been made from this play.  Orson Welles made his version of the story in 1948.  He chose Jeanette Nolan as his Lady Macbeth.  Kenneth Branagh did a live version in 2013 with Rosalie Craig as Lady Macbeth on television.  There was even a version made in Australia circa 2006 that was “a contemporary retelling of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" set in the ganglands of Melbourne”. (Info courtesy if IMDb.)
The story told in this version from director Justin Kurzel is a gritty, dark, and a bit bloody retelling of the story we all know of the Scotsman Macbeth and his rise to be King and his subsequent death.  The role of Macbeth is this new version is played by Michael Fassbender. His acting and athletic abilities are pushed hard in this role.  Unlike his predecessors, his Macbeth seems less suave and more realistic.  He lived in a rough and bloody era of our history (so to speak). 
The character, as written, lived during a tumultuous time in Scotland’s history.  Macbeth’s fate is foretold by three witches. He is to be named Thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland.  When the current Thane is called a traitor, Macbeth is given the title. His good wife, the Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), is ambitious.  She pushes her husband to be a man and kill King Duncan.
Macbeth relents to his wife’s prodding and stabs the king to death in his sleep, getting covered in blood.  When the alarm is given alerting the camp that the king is dead, Macbeth dispatches the two chamberlains he earlier disabled to prevent them from stopping the murder.  Macbeth is crowned king instead of man designated as the rightful heir, Duncan’s son Malcolm.  Duncan’s sons flee to England before they can be murdered.
Macbeth continues to see the witches and slowly descends into madness.  The story is one that will leave you wanting to be a better person because you see the consequences of Macbeth’s actions.  The final battle between Macbeth’s forces and the English troops led by Prince Malcolm is like every battle in the film, violent and bloody, the conclusion well known to us. 
This story is one that could happen today.  How many men have fought hard to gain the recognition of not only their bosses but the respect of their piers and loved ones.  And once they have won their high position lost their sanity and everything else because of their guilt.  Read the papers and watch the news.  Look closely and you will see these men (and women).
This is a strong film with excellent acting and cinematography.  I enjoyed watching the story play out on the big screen but don’t use the other versions as a measure of what to expect in this film.  It is worth watching for its own merits.  Despite the fact that Mr. Fassbinder did not direct himself in this film, I think this version stacks up well against those by Welles and Branagh.
Directed by: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, Elizabeth Debicki, David Thewlis
MPAA Rating: R (for strong violence and brief sexuality)
Selig Rating: Full Price
Runtime: 110 Min.
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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