That would be the performances, like Brian d'Arcy James as a charismatic Banquo, but particularly Ethan Hawke as the title character. His Macbeth is as conflicted as Hamlet, roiling with angst, not blind with ambition but an ordinary man with an ordinary wife who push themselves too far at the prospect of power. It's about how such power corrupts, how, like my junior-high drug counselor said of cocaine, even just a small taste can rapidly lead to full-blown addiction. Hawke creates a coherent arc for Macbeth, who's often played with a bit of bluster right from "so foul and fair a day I have not seen." Here, the descent into madness and manipulation is a gradual one, coming across not so much as madness, even, but as desperation. This Macbeth is a man undone by his fanatical faith in fortunes told—like Oedipus, or William Shatner in that episode of The Twilight Zone in the diner—until he's "smacking of every sin that has a name." It leads to a final battle so energetically staged that the slain Macbeth's chest was heaving as he lie dead—a clear example of how a director can get in his own way.
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