There have been more than ten film adaptations of Macbeth and all sorts of media that has taken on the story (or parts of it) in a new way. This version from director Justin Kurzel has a lot of good things, but other factors that take away from a film I really wanted to like. Now this version, which stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard is available on Blu-ray for all to check out.
Shakespeare’s classic tragedy tells a story many should already be familiar with. Fassbender stars as the titular character, a fearless Scottish General who schemes with his equally ambitious wife (Cotillard) to gain the power of the throne. As we come to see, power corrupts, especially when a corrupt soul is already seeking power.
Right away, the film makes it clear that style will be playing a big part. Kurzel, cinematographer Adam Arkapaw and the whole crew do a lot of interesting things with color, the settings and locations (much of the film was shot in Scotland), and the nature of the war-torn battlefields. From that standpoint, it is a terrific way to watch this film unfold. Any movie that rarely throws up a scene that can’t be used as computer wallpaper is at the very least interesting.
Plenty of credit also goes to the cast. Some accents aside, these are committed performances that really dig into a visceral side of these characters. Fassbender is an easy standout, as he is both one of my favorite actors working today and the force that drives this film. Cotillard is excellent as well. She usually is, but this is Lady Macbeth, which is one of Shakespeare’s most iconic female characters, so it is worth noting and leaving to the discovery of the viewer.
Sadly, this film ran into an interesting problem that ultimately hurt the film. Similar, in a sense, to a recent horror film I saw called The Witch, Macbeth is deeply invested in being as authentic as possible. While that worked for a genre film that happened to rely on real dialogue, sets, etc., this take on Macbeth feels like one designed for experts only. By that, I mean this is a film that is so dedicated to telling the story in a flashy sort of way that it feels like general audiences (even those fairly familiar with the story) are losing out appreciating this story in action.
The performances have a great raw quality and the visuals are often filled with the same fury the actors give to pivotal moments, but the film lacks more vigor. We see scenes play out and the naturalistic approach may prove to be difficult for some attempting to take it all in and the choppy pacing hurts things further. It’s almost the opposite of someone like Baz Lurhmann. Things may be over-the-top in the case of both filmmakers, but Kurzel’s choices make things less lively than they should be.
Fassbender and Kurzel are currently filming an adaptation of the popular video game series Assassin’s Creed. Clearly these two got along on set and I only wished I got along more with this film. That said, there is some true beauty to behold in how it was made, so I leave it to others to determine if this was the adaptation for them. Still, I wish I could have been more onboard with such an interesting approach to such a timeless tragedy.
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Clarity/Detail: While I was disappointed in the film in theaters, I was actually just as excited to revisit again on Blu-ray, as the style really showed potential for a great video presentation. I was not wrong to be excited, as Macbeth looks great. The variety of imagery plays well on this disc brought to us by Anchor Bay. So much wonderful detail captured in the indoor and outdoor scenes, with plenty of elaborate costumes and more for a fairly low-budget period drama.
Depth: Movements are captured well in a film that is at times full of individuals on a battlefield as well as intensely intimate in its minimal presentation with other scenes.
Black Levels: Blacks levels are rich, deep and inky.
Color Reproduction: The film is gorgeous in this regard. The countryside locations and drab atmosphere may not have you believing the color is vivid and bright, but when you see it, it is there and it pops.
Flesh Tones: Facial textures are captured quite wonderfully. You get a great look at so many characters and can really see all the details necessary.
Noise/Artifacts: This disc is clean.
Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Dynamics: The sound work on this film is quite strong and aided well by this lossless soundtrack. Macbeth has a variety of audio elements, despite how talky it is, and you really get to hear it all play out. From the big boisterous moments to the subtle effects when a sword is dragged along the ground, so much good work has been done.
Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel gets a bump that plays quite well during the battles and other moments.
Surround Sound Presentation: A fine sense of balance brings out the ambient noise and soundtrack amidst all the talking that takes place.
Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is important in this film and it is all heard clearly.
I would have loved to hear so much more about the concept for this take on Macbeth, but we sadly only get a couple extras.
- Making Macbeth (HD, 7:55) – A fairly standard EPK featuring the cast and crew.
- Q&A with Michael Fassbender (HD, 20:12) – It is nice to hear Fassbender talk about the process and this is worthwhile for any fan of the actor or this film.
- Trailers (HD)
- UltraViolet Copy of the Film
Perhaps my expectations were too high, though you wouldn’t know it given the acclaim this film has received. Things did not click with me well enough to truly enjoy 2015’s Macbeth, but I do admire a lot of aspects of it. This Blu-ray does a fine job of highlighting one of those aspects, which is the style, presented nearly flawlessly thanks to a solid technical presentation. The extras come up lacking, but any huge fan of the original story may be curious to seek this one out.