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Feb 23

MacBeth (2015) – Review by Martin Chittenden – DCN Movies Film Expert

MacBeth (2015)
Review by Martin Chittenden

When I was in high school, one of my teachers, whose name escapes me now, explained Shakespeare to me in terms that made me feel stupid.  We were required to study Shakespeare and we all complained about how we couldn’t understand it.  Our teacher explained that at the time Shakespeare wrote his plays, one of the things that made him so popular is the fact that he wrote his plays for the uneducated masses.  So, if you don’t understand Shakespeare, you are dumber than the dumb people of that time.  So, I spent quite a while learning Shakespeare and can understand it completely.
There have been many different movies of some of his most popular plays but MacBeth hasn’t, in my opinion, been transferred to the film medium as successfully as Shakespeare’s other plays.  This one starts out with MacBeth and his wife at the funeral for their child.  The story is that there is dissent in the kingdom of Scotland.  The Thanes are feuding and trying to overthrow King Duncan (David Thewlis), MacBeth,(Michael Fassbender) the Thane of Glamis (Think of it as a Noble or Duke), fights the would be usurpers and the Weird Sisters (In the play was 3 but now 4 for some reason), who are basically Witches watch as MacBeth and his good friend Banquo, terminate with extreme predjudice then prophesize that Macbeth would be given the tittle of another Thane and eventually become king.  Banquo is with his friend and says “Oi, what about me?” So the sisters say that he shall sire the next line of kings.


MacBeth, tired from war, goes to see King Duncan, who then says “Good Job old boy! You now have the tittle of Thane of Glamis and the second Thaneship who the guy before him was a traitor to the king.  So part of the Weird Sisters’ prophesy comes true.  MacBeth is to host the king at his camp and says “Thanks King, I’d love to stick around but I really want to see my wife.” The king is cool with that.  Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) receives correspondence from MacBeth about the Prophesy and such and she swears that it will happen ASAP and basically gives up her duty to good and God and becomes drunk with the power that she and MacBeth don’t have yet.
Macbeth comes home and Lady MacBeth convinces the loyal subject of King Duncan to kill the king while they throw a party for the victory at MacBeth’s place.  Lady MacBeth convinces the reluctant MacBeth to kill the king so they can speed up making MacBeth the king.  At the party the king names Malcolm his successor, which throws a wrench in the system for the MacBeths.  Lady MacBeth roofies the king’s guards and MacBeth hesitantly kills the king while he’s sleeping.  After MacBeth convinces him to do the deed and brutally murders the king, Malcolm comes in and MacBeth threatens him.  MalColm steals away to England and the next morning the king is found dead and the guards barely comprehensive.  While the other nobles are freaking out, MacBeth kills the Framed Guards before questioning.


MacBeth is named king and his guilt is becoming madness.  He then remembers that his friend Banquo will have the next line of kings so MacBeth orders Banquo and his son assassinated.  Banquo is killed but the boy escapes. Macbeth and Lady MacBeth descend into madness and he wanders around the Scottish highlands in his underwear and finds the Weird Sisters. He finds them and they tell him that no man who is woman born can kill him.  With this information he decides to start killing off everyone as they all realize he lost his mind and run to England. One of Macbeth’s subjects, MacDuff sends his family away and makes his way to England.  MacBeth’s army catches up to MacDuff’s family en route and brings them back to the king where he burns Lady MacDuff and her children alive.  MacDuff meets with Malcolm and finds out the bad news about his family.
Malcolm, MacDuff and soldiers from England advance towards MacBeth where he meets with MacDuff and they fight.  MacBeth, fully believing that no man can kill him gets injured and finds out that MacDuff was not technically woman-born as he was a C-Section.  MacDuff kills MacBeth and while Malcolm is enjoying the empty throne room, Banquo’s son Fleance takes the kings sword from near MacBeth’s dead body and runs away, presumably to become king later in life.


In my opinion this movie does not capture the unstable madness of the characters.  They filmed in Scotland and the visuals are very stunning, but most of the movie is in a monotone voice as the players deliver their lines.  I hope this was a ploy to capture the bleakness of the highlands and moors of Scotland and that there was not much to do in 12th century Scotland at the time.  Also to mention that Scottish people aren’t known for being boisterous or jolly at any given point. I haven’t been able to confirm this on the internet, but, it makes sense to me.  Here’s the major problem with Shakespeare films, they don’t do the whole play.  Kenneth Brannagh brought the entire play of Hamlet to the screen and that was about 4 hours.  I know they cut from MacBeth to fit it in 2 hours when the play is over that by a few minutes.  All the actors deliver their lines but I think editing and voice over kind of take away the visual style of the source material.  I love Shakespeare, and there are good points to this film, but a casual watcher would be lost and bored with this film.  There is a good production of MacBeth with Patrick Stewart done by PBS which would be better for beginners of Shakespeare’s works.  This one is for hardcore Shakespearians.

Questions or comments?
MartinC@movies.discovercountynetwork.com