REVIEW: Macbeth (15) *****

Michael Fassbender upon the throne in Macbeth. PA Photo/Studio Canal
Michael Fassbender upon the throne in Macbeth. PA Photo/Studio Canal
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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 hurlyburly of the weird sisters, and Lady Macbeth 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 scything through flesh in expertly staged battle sequences that emphasize 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.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) are inconsolable at the loss of their beloved son.

On the battlefields, the Thane encounters a trio of witches (Lynn Kennedy, Seylan Baxter, Kayla Fallon) and a child (Amber Rissmann), who foretell his rise through the ranks and eventful coronation at the expense of King Duncan (David Thewlis).

The king’s son Malcolm (Jack Reynor) flees and Banquo (Paddy Considine) naturally suspects Macbeth’s trembling hand in the foul play.

Macbeth subsequently turns his attention to rival Macduff (Sean Harris) and in one of the film’s most harrowing scenes, he orders the execution of Lady MacDuff (Elizabeth Debicki) and her children so that no one stands in his way as decreed by the hags.

With its high body count and explosions of viscera, Macbeth is a battered and bruised reworking of a classic text.

Fassbender delivers a mesmerising lead performance of snarling intensity that overwhelms everyone else on screen.

A cold, earthy colour palette reflects the icy blast of an ill wind that whips through every frame including majestic castle interiors where the scheming and treachery reach a horrifying crescendo.

By shooting on location in challenging conditions, Kurzel compels us to shudder in our seats and seek shelter from the raging storm of the lead character’s internal conflict.

However, there’s nowhere to hide from the double toil and trouble of this calssic tale.