Review: Macbeth Is Rushed And Overly Somber But Features Excellent Lead Performances
Screenwriter: Jacob Koskoff (screenplay), Michael Lesslie (screenplay), Todd Louiso (screenplay), and William Shakespeare (play)
Principal Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, David Thewlis, and Jack Reynor
Summary: Macbeth, a Thane of Scotland, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become the King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.
As I’ve said in the past, I’m an English major by trade so I always enjoy when another adaptation of a Shakespeare play comes out. I usually enjoy the work about as much as I can. I’m not going to lie that the new Macbeth movie sort of snuck up on me. However, I was excited when I saw the cast because these are some of the best people working in Hollywood at the moment. I made sure to avoid trailers at all cost so I could go in without knowing what kind of tone they were going for since there are so many different ways to read Shakespeare’s work.
Macbeth features some truly amazing performances from its leads but it has an overly somber tone and a pace that gives no one any time to breath.
There are so many different ways to read Shakespeare’s work, even more so his plays, that no adaptation can say its interpretation is right or wrong. There are many historians who think good old William would find it hilarious how seriously we take his work since he never seemed to. I think even the Bard himself would be surprised with just how seriously Macbeth takes itself. The play isn’t exactly a comedy but there isn’t a single moment in this movie that isn’t completely depressing. I almost want to call it the “grim and gritty” reboot of the play. That’s not to say that it is wrong, or even bad, but this movie is very heavy. It sits on the edge of too heavy but never crosses the line completely. It will stay with you, though.
One of the things I have always loved about Shakespeare’s work is that the dialogue is so over the top there is every opportunity to chew the scenery. Shakespeare practically invented melodramatic dialogue in the appropriate occasion and turned the connotation from positive to negative. I know that Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard can do this well so I was looking forward to that. I was almost disappointed with how subtle everything was played. I kept waiting for that moment and it never seemed to come. The dire tone works better for some than for others. Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) has the benefit of an actress that knows how to express emotions with just facial expressions. Her big eyes and soft voice make her most famous moment, “out out damn spot!”, almost haunting as the camera focuses entirely on her face. Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) uses his mouth and smile to show how out of his mind he really is but it doesn’t work quite as well as Cotillard.
Aside from the overly somber tone the only major complaint I have about Macbeth is that it felt so rushed. The movie hits the ground running and thus takes away those quiet moments. The quiet moments are the ones where they could have emphasized how Macbeth and his wife go slowly out of their minds. In this version it seems like they both go crazy in a matter of hours. The movie isn’t even two hours long and even just a few extra minutes with both of them would have helped. There is also a strange lack of background music that probably doesn’t help. The director Justin Kurzel has shot a truly lovely movie. I’m not familiar with his other work but he is helming the Assassin Creed movie so I feel a little more confident about that. The costumes, especially Cotillard’s jewelry, are detailed enough to be impressive but not gaudy.
Macbeth is one of those movies where I sound like I disliked it a lot more than I actually did. There are some great moments in this adaptation that will surely make it an award contender. However, there is just a little something missing that keeps me from saying it’s brilliant compared to really great.