'Macbeth' review: Fassbender's brilliance highlights bold, brooding update

'Macbeth' review: Fassbender's brilliance highlights bold, brooding update

'Macbeth,' starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, screened at the 2015 AFI FEST in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company, used with permission.)

This realization of "Macbeth" (screening at AFI FEST on Nov. 6 and 11) earns its place among the greatest film adaptations of any of Shakespeare's work.

In short: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine and Sean Harris ("Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation") star in this adaptation of The Tragedy ofMacbeth. (Watch the trailer)

Shakespeare's works cannot be improved upon -- they can only be complimented by brilliant acting and forceful direction. Director Justin Kurzel fleshes out a straight forward and epic version of the classic tragedy that allows Fassbender's performance to take center stage. Kurzel's version is incredibly cinematic and much in the grim/realistic vein of "Braveheart." This update moves with intent and an intent equal to Macbeth's aspirations. Smart editing keeps this version energized and becomes increasingly frenetic as Macbeth's psyche erodes. While "Macbeth" may have originally been written for the stage, Kurzel has masterfully adapted the cautionary tale for the big screen as a lean and grizzly film with no fat on it.

Between his unheralded role in "Slow West" and his turn in "Steve Jobs," Fassbender absolutely cements his place among the great actors of his generation with his stirring performance as the mad king. He masters this complex, conflicted and ultimately mad tragic hero scarred by war, driven by aspirations and tainted by prophecy. His Macbeth is believable as the loyal war hero as much as he is as the unhinged king.

Cotillard, Considine and Harris round out a particularly strong supporting cast. Cotillard is a bewitching Lady Macbeth and Harris is an especially strong McDuff.

Final verdict: This 2015 update of a classic is an exciting, visually compelling and grizzly tale of power and ambition, capped by perhaps Fassbender's best performance to date.

Score: 4/5

"Macbeth" is not yet rated. This Shakespeare adaptation is scheduled for wide release in the U.S. on Dec. 4.

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