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Blu-ray Review: Macbeth – “A visual feast”

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Macbeth. Macbeth. Macbeth. Classic Shakespeare that has had numerous stage and film adaptations. The latest is directed by Justin Kurzel (Snowtown) and stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard and it is an absolute belter.

It looks absolutely beautiful and has powerful performances from everyone involved.

We open with a huge battle scene, something that is usually only mentioned in the play, and see the clash of two armies. So far, so Braveheart, yet Kurzel does incredible things with the battle. You think it will be people running around with swords, blood flying everywhere, and it is. Then the slow motion kicks in. I’m not talking Zack Snyder type stylized slo-mo, I’m talking proper slow motion that shows the two forces collide. Then we are back at normal speed, and then more slow motion and so on. It is absolutely wonderful and lifts what could have been a pretty good action scene into something poetic and visually stunning.

We are thrust into the dirt, danger, despair and death that would have been prevalent in those times, but it becomes something more, something mystical.

Of course, Macbeth is heavy on its mysticism. We still get the Weird Sisters and Banquo’s Ghost (Paddy Considine is also fantastic as Banquo), but they are lifted and made more dangerous and stranger than I had seen them before.

The film continues on with the wonder of the opening scenes. Filmed all on location in England and Scotland, the raw power of the surrounding environment is allowed to live and breath in some wonderful shots that open up the scale of the story, before crashing back in to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Cotillard) struggling with what they have done in close, personal scenes. The vast landscapes enhance the close minded paranoia of Macbeth (Fassbender).

Fassbender’s Macbeth is a veteran warrior who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), obviously that is never mentioned in the play, but it comes across well. Just having that aspect of the character become obvious suddenly accounts for the supposed madness that follows. Fassbender prowls through the film (he is in almost every scene) and is absolutely amazing. We all know how good an actor he is and his Macbeth is going to take some beating. Watching him play through the various scenes and soliloquies of the play are just a masterclass in action.

Marion Cotillard is no different. Stunning work from the pair of them.

The supporting cast is no different with Considine and Sean Harris as Macduff obvious highlights, but everyone else is on the top of their game. Even the extras with no lines all look and act the part. You feel as if you are in Scotland, part of the terrible events that unfold.

The whole film is beautifully shot with some great framing of the wild landscapes which tie the story in to very land itself. The use of lighting and colour is also incredible. The blue eye makeup on Cotillard just pops from the screen

The final battle in the fire and smoke is mind blowingly good. It suddenly feels like the blood on Macbeth’s hands has seeped through into the very film itself. Kurzel makes the fire all consuming as the two sides battle with Macbeth starting off as a silhouette stalking out of the smoke to face Macduff. The surrounding forces look like an army of ghosts as the final duel between the pair takes place.

The only quibble I could have with it is the fact that some of the lines are almost lost through whispering and the accents being used. If it is the first time you have seen this particular tale you could end up a little lost. Just make sure you concentrate or turn the sound up.

The fact that Kurzel is also directing Michael Fassbender in the film adaptation of the Assassin’s Creedvideo game is even more exciting now that I have finally seen their Macbeth.

All in all, this version of Macbeth is a visual feast and one of the best adaptations of Shakespeare’s work I have ever seen.

The picture and sound quality on the Blu-ray is immense. The extras are a bit lacking, but there are good videos on how they tackled the new adaptation and a couple focussing on Fassbender and Cotillard. This is then followed by an interview with Kurzel.

5-out-of-5

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