Macbeth Blu-ray review

Scotland. Witches. Murder. Traitors. Revenge. Power. Thanes. Kings. Prophecies. Paranoia. Guilt. Etc. Etc. It’s all here in this latest adaptation of William Shakespeare’s MACBETH.

For those who opted to sleep through this lesson in high school English, MACBETH tells of Scottish nobleman Macbeth (Michael Fassbender, who also starred in STEVE JOBS and SLOW WEST this year), who is urged by his wife, Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard, the Dardenne brothers’ TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT), to kill the monarch King Duncan (David Thewlis, who might be best known as Remus Lupin in the HARRY POTTER series) so he can seize the throne and help fulfill the prophecy of three witches. This triggers quite the series of events, with additional deaths of pal Banquo (Paddy Considine, CHILD 44), Lady Macbeth and Macbeth himself, courtesy of Macduff (Sean Harris, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION), who makes a last-minute revelation that supposedly aids in the king’s death. (Surely a spoiler alert isn’t necessary since the play is more than 400 years old.)

Macbeth

Shakespeare’s play has been adapted for the screen (both big and small) more than two dozen times, with notable versions including Orson Welles’ 1948 version, Roman Polanski’s 1971 take and Akira Kurosawa’s THRONE OF BLOOD in 1957. This version, directed by Justin Kurzel (2011’s SNOWTOWN; he was also one of 18 directors to lead a segment in 2013’s anthology movie THE TURNING), despite its obvious efforts, doesn’t do quite enough to warrant being remembered.

Macbeth

There are certainly some fine aspects to MACBETH—there is an ominous and moody score by Jed Kurzel (THE BABADOOK), the Scotland and England locations are a marvelous sight—but there are far too many missteps. Take, for example, the cinematography. While Adam Arkapaw (who has two Emmys—one for TOP OF THE LAKE, one for TRUE DETECTIVE) makes excellent use of the locations and contributes greatly to the tone, the majority of interior shots are so darkly lit that the viewer is left squinting trying to tell who is occupying the room.

Macbeth

Chances are, if you enjoy theatrical adaptations of Shakespearian works, you will seek out MACBETH. You may also find yourself asking, What’s the point? How many takes on the same source are needed, especially if it doesn’t succeed in providing a fresh perspective?

Macbeth

This is perhaps the greatest fault of Kurzel’s movie. Just about everything that is expected to happen happens. The screenwriters (Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie and Todd Louiso) stick to the play, but it comes off as more out of obligation than necessity, making the entire movie laborious and plain. Even the leads, who are generally a joy to watch (Fassbender is one of the best actors working today), come across as if they are just trudging through the motions.

MACBETH competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. The prize went to French film DHEEPAN.

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video: 2.39:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This is a strong transfer that fully captures the atmosphere of the story.

Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The dialogue is clean, the score is moody and the battle/murder sequences immerse the viewer in the world.

Making MACBETH (7:55): Director Justin Kurzel, star Michael Fassbender and more discuss the characters and approach to MACBETH.

Q&A with Michael Fassbender (20:12): Film critic Joe Neumaier interviews Fassbender.

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