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Review: Shakespeare's Macbeth is fit for a king


Crowning glory: Michael Fassbender as Macbeth

Crowning glory: Michael Fassbender as Macbeth


Crowning glory: Michael Fassbender as Macbeth

The Scottish play bares its teeth and draws blood in Australian director Justin Kurzel's muscular and unflinching adaptation that accentuates the carnage as the doomed title character is undone by paternal grief and naked ambition.

Shot on location in England and Scotland, this Macbeth is rugged and raw, stripped bare of some of Shakespeare's lyrical text for the sake of dramatic expediency and visual spectacle.

Purists may gnash their teeth at some of the alterations in Jacob Koskoff, Todd Louiso and Michael Lesslie's script.

The film opens with a funeral rather than the hurly-burly of the weird sisters, and Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) is a brittle porcelain doll, likely to crack at the slightest emotional jolt, rather than a demented dynamo behind her husband's ascension to the throne.

Kurzel chooses to linger on the slow-motion cut and thrust of swords in expertly staged battle sequences that emphasise the title character's credentials as a fearless warrior.

Michael Fassbender is front and centre throughout as the Thane of Glamis, whose encounter with a quartet of prophetic hags sets him on his ill-fated course to self-annihilation.

With its high body count and explosions of viscera, Macbeth is a battered and bruised reworking of a classic text, punctuated by moments of directorial brio.

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Fassbender delivers a mesmerising lead performance and by shooting on location in challenging conditions, Kurzel compels us to shudder in our seats and seek shelter from the storm of the lead character's internal conflict.

However, there's nowhere to hide from the double toil and trouble.

Four stars

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