Actors: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard
Director: Justin Kurzel
Format: NTSC, Widescreen
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: ANCHOR BAY
Release Date: March 8, 2016
Run Time: 113 minutes
Despite casting two magnificently proficient actors in the iconic leads, there is little new which can be brought to the words of William Shakespeare. Countless talented actors have spoken these words, leaving only the awe of unique visual spectacle for director Justin Kurzel to breathe new life into this age-old tale of violent ambition and the madness that follows. On a bare stage it is only Shakespeare’s words which paint the visuals into the viewer’s mind, but Adam Arkapaw’s cinematography is a narrator that richly parallels these words with a dreamlike landscape of imagery and ideas. This is still Macbeth, unlikely to brings story surprises to anyone who paid attention in their high school English classes, though the real shock is how engaging a familiar tale can be in the hands of an ambitious young filmmaker.
Beginning with a fiercely stylized battle led by Scottish General Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), this cinematic incarnation begins taking subtle liberties with the classic tragedy. Most of these changes are minor, including the addition of a fourth witch, though some have subtle implications on the narrative. The most noticeable is the decision to let Marion Cotillard retain her French accent for the role of Lady Macbeth, adding layers of political implications to her role as the one planting the seeds of betrayal. When their king arrives for a stay in their camp, Macbeth and his wife make plans to steal the throne by way of murder, as was predicted by the witches on the moors of
There are additional changes made to the details of the final act climax, but the important themes of greed and ambition remain faithful to the original text even in these revisions. Many praised Fassbender for his work as Steve Jobs in Danny Boyle’s unconventional biopic this year, but I would argue that this was the more challenging role for the British actor. There was a forced theatricality to Steve Jobs (mostly due to Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire screenplay) which I found somewhat distracting, whereas Macbeth feels alive with authenticity despite the dreamlike cinematic embellishment of the visuals. Whether onstage or screen, both Fassbender and Cotillard were meant to play these roles, and their performances are only enhanced by Kurzel’s bold directorial choices.
The Blu-ray release comes with a Digital HD copy of the film. While most films are just as effective on DVD as high definition Blu-ray, Macbeth has production design elements which are enhanced by the sharper visual presentation. The special features are not quite so impressive, with only a Q&A and a generic making-of featurette.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8.5/10
Historical Significance: 7/10