Scotland, 11th century. Driven by the twisted prophecy of three witches and the ruthless ambition of his wife, warlord Macbeth, bold and brave, but also weak and hesitant, betrays his good king and his brothers in arms and sinks into the bloody mud of a path with no return, sown with crime and suspicion.
Spoiler: Polanski is, alas, a really talented filmmaker.
I really think the film is without weaknesses.
[The fight] scenes are also superbly edited—turbulent and yet absolutely lucid. Clarity seems, in fact, to be the governing aesthetic of this production. Shakespeare’s language, which in other attempts to bring his work to the screen has sometimes overmatched the audience’s ability to take it in, flows effortlessly in this Macbeth, limpid as a mountain stream. […] Polanski’s Macbeth manages to do what Olivier’s Hamlet and only a very few other films have done: to use Shakespeare’s words as the raw material for a vision that is distinct from that of the original poet but coherent and powerful in itself. […] Without the ambient cultural noise that distorted the reception of the movie four decades ago, we can see that this Macbeth’s fearsome vision of the lust for power is credible and, to our collective sorrow, relevant to every time in human history.
— Terrence Rafferty (Criterion)
The play feeds off of Macbeth’s unquenchable thirst for power, but Polanski’s film silently asks why anyone would kill to rule this miserable territory.
Jake Cole (Slant)