Macbeth (Justin Kurzel, 2015)

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Opening this week at a few screens around town (the Uptown, the Seven Gables, along with the Grand in Tacoma) is the latest high-profile adaptation of a Shakespeare play, with Michael Fassbender as the Scottish usurper and Marion Cotillard as his ambitious wife. Directed by Justin Kurzel, this Macbeth proves a solid entry in what must be considered the Games of Thronesification of the historical film, with an outsized emphasis on the lurid details of medieval warfare. The brooding sense of doom, of course, comes right out of Shakespeare, but where previous adaptations by Orson Welles and Akira Kurosawa found shadows and fog in the text, Kurzel finds blood. Whether that is an improvement or not I think depends a great deal on how important you feel verisimilitude is to realism. At its best, the film has some of the hallucinatory power that gives the play an eternal aura of mystery, like Nicolas Winding Refn’s psychotic Viking epic Valhalla Rising, but with words. At its worst, it’s simply Fassbender looking confused and mumbling incoherently.

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