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Critics reviews
Macbeth
Justin Kurzel United Kingdom, 2015
Steve Jobs seems so eager to make its subject comprehensible that it threatens to flatten what should be intriguing and strange into an all too familiar, bland narrative… This is the same move by which Macbeth, one of our best-known explorations of extreme ambition, of power and its corruptions, becomes instead a portrait of a grieving dad.
January 13, 2016
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Unfortunately, this promising revision is delivered in lugubrious terms by a self-conscious director who cannot ever change the tone of the play without endlessly calling attention to those changes. The film constantly grinds to a halt so Kurzel can overdirect scenes with montages of stately images rendered less imperial by the jittery, eager editing.
December 04, 2015
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Kurzel and his three screenwriters (Todd Louiso & Jacob Koskoff, and Michael Lesslie) have drastically cut and reshaped Shakespeare’s text and swamped it in grime, gore, and murk. Even slashed to the bone, the words should still spill over with vitality and splendor, but the filmmakers bury them alive.
December 03, 2015
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It isn’t the conceptual spin that ultimately undoes Kurzel’s Macbeth, but his ponderous approach, hefting each scene on top of the last as though moviemaking was an act of grunting, straining brute force, stacking up a big, bleak cairn.
December 03, 2015
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Macbeth is certainly Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy, but the extent to which Kurzel’s adaptation subordinates the poetic to the visceral makes Polanski’s grim, muddy 1971 version look as frothy as Much Ado About Nothing by comparison. We’re talking maximum sound and fury, and while no movie that stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard could signify nothing, this one doesn’t signify a whole lot.
December 03, 2015
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Does Macbeth kill Duncan because of magic, fate or ambition? Or is Lady Macbeth to blame? These are the questions that, like the fog that Mr. Kurzel keeps pumping into the fray, obscure the character and that only Mr. Fassbender’s exceptionally fine performance disperses. Quietly, insistently, he pulls you to him in scene after scene, largely with a restrained intensity that creates an intimacy between you and the character, effectively turning you into another Lady Macbeth.
December 03, 2015
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Certainly the film excels on a technical level. Cinematographer Adam Arkapaw does bold (occasionally excessive) work with tinting and visible light, and he captures a real sense of desolation and foreboding in the snowy, foggy, muddy vistas that make up Scotland’s stage of carnage. It is a handsome production, but that’s insufficient. After it struts and frets its hour upon the stage, expect this Macbeth to be heard from no more.
November 30, 2015
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Throughout, Kurzel’s stagey pretensions clash with each of his aesthetic choices, from the intimate realism of his interiors to his ultraviolent battlefield set pieces, anachronisms that evoke no other impression of the director so much as an arthouse Zack Snyder.
November 29, 2015
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This physicality, along with the intensity of the performances, recasts Shakespeare’s spookiest drama as a realist trip into PTSD. No matter if Macbeth remakes what was already written – after all, it always has been concerned with the prescribed nature of destiny.
October 01, 2015
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Fassbender, arguably never better, steers the role into a gladiatorial exhibition, finding himself at the center of a nightmarishly menacing pomp, and emerging from a pool of freshwater the morning after he commits his first murder like some topless heartthrob too convinced of the camera’s ability to render him immortal.
September 26, 2015
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The camera sways, as if blown by the wind in an unstable world. Kurzel doesn’t cut the text as much as Kurosawa did, but his Scottish-accented cast mutter rather than declaim, and visuals are more eloquent than vocals. It’s a film rich in gesture. As they plot murder, the Macbeths whisper intently, brow to brow, and their hands find flesh under thick layers of clothes: assassination as aphrodisiac.
September 07, 2015
While much of Kurzel’s Macbeth might seem heavy-handed, it’s almost something of a virtue when wrestling with such melodramatic subject matter. In this sense, instead of shying away from those elements in Shakespeare’s play, Kurzel has created the most dramatic and loyal adaptation of Macbeth in recent memory that simultaneously adds to the story in plot and thoroughly explores and expands on its ever-relevant themes of masculinity and power.
August 24, 2015
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The efforts by the other seven Competition newcomers [besides The Measure of a Man] were hardly up to snuff, from Valérie Donzelli’s reworking of a discarded Truffaut project, the idiosyncratic 18th-century incest romance Marguerite & Julien, to Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth, which rendered Shakespeare’s dialogue perfectly unintelligible.
July 01, 2015
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If Kurzel had wanted a Shakespearean pretext for the poetically tinged violence that he so clearly relishes, perhaps Coriolanus or Titus Andronicus may have been better matches. As it stands, the evidence on offer in his rendition of Macbeth shows little else than that the $170 million video game adaptation Assassin’s Creed he has signed up to may well be the perfect project for Kurzel (and I mean this in both a positive and a negative sense).
June 13, 2015
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The fault isn’t [Cotillard’s], or Fassbender’s. The movie is a monotonous, monochromatic pageant of slashing and stabbing and slow motion, of men screaming to the digitally altered skies. Kurzel, an Australian who somehow shares adaptation credit with two other writers, gives the movie machismo, but even Zack Synder’s 300 was desperate to give you more than that. Snyder, at least, gave you abs.
May 27, 2015
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It kicked off with some truly haunting imagery, and furious battle scenes, but finally offered little new insight into the play except that it was a bit like Game of Thrones, really. Michael Fassbender raged charismatically, Marion Cotillard came elegantly apart at the seams, but Sean Harris stole the show as a magnificent Macduff. Shakespeareans, though, will wring their hands at the quasi-naturalistic intonations and wail, "Where’s the poetry?
May 24, 2015
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You get the sense that – aside from the naturalistic performances – Kurzel wanted to make something that was a tad more expressionistic, but eventually felt beholden to the hallowed text. As such, the dynamism and the poetry of the dialogue never truly seeps from the screen, and you’re left with a bunch of actors intoning lines you don’t really believe they understand, which in turn undermines the overtures towards this mud-caked realism.
May 23, 2015
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The director approaches the classic tale of murder and moral decline with the same level of visceral stylization that distinguished his debut, pulling off perhaps the fiercest cinematic translation of Shakespeare to date. Visually, Macbeth is breathtaking.
May 23, 2015
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[It] feels jagged and spare – the bleached, modernist carcass of the original verse – while the sheer innovation of the staging lends a flesh-creeping freshness to every familiar toss and turn of Shakespeare’s plot. Tonally, it is far closer to the fractured poetry of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land than Game of Thrones, yet the battle sequences have a serious, blockbuster beauty and heft, with thunderous, slow-motion combat backlit by blood-red sun rays, mist and smoke.
May 23, 2015
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Fearsomely visceral and impeccably performed, it’s a brisk, bracing update, even as it remains exquisitely in period. Though the Bard’s words are handled with care by an ideal ensemble, fronted by Michael Fassbender and a boldly cast Marion Cotillard, it’s the Australian helmer’s fervid sensory storytelling that makes this a Shakespeare pic for the ages — albeit one surely too savage for the classroom.
May 23, 2015
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