Justin ‘SNOWTOWN’ Kurzel’s take on the famous ‘Scottish play’ marks the second time in less than a decade that an Australian director has taken a stab at Shakespeare’s murderous material, after Geoffrey Wright presented his modernised version in 2006. Kurzel though, takes us back to the original setting, a 12th Century Scotland of bone marrow-freezing authenticity.

Michael Fassbender makes a superb Thane of Cawdor, who with the support of his unstable wife (a similarly strong Marion Cotillard) murders his way to the royal throne on the say so of three crazy ladies.

The great strength of Kurzel’s production is its intimate staging, keeping us right up close to the Macbeths as their relationship shifts from guttural, conspiratorial whispers to maddened soliloquies in a that way no live production can. It’s abetted considerably by Adam Arkapaw’s alternately stark-then-sumptuous cinematography (I suspect there may be a few techniques being tested here for the pair’s next collaboration, ASSASSIN’S CREED), and a perfectly ominous, dirging, hurdy gurdy-driven score from Justin’s brother Jed.

For some, a faltering step will be what feels like Kurzel’s desire to paint Mrs & Mrs M as pawns of fate, dialing back their greed and ambition – he more or less takes the witches’ word for it, while much prominence is given to the couples’ dead child for her to fall back on as madness descends. To that end, purists may be less impressed, but overall this is a mightily impressive effort that works as cinema in its own right, rather than simply an adaptation.

MACBETH is released October 1 in Australia and New Zealand, October 2 in the UK, and December 4 in the US.