Movie review of “Macbeth”: A haunting, icy, bloody retelling of Shakespeare’s drama about ambition and murder in Scotland. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard star. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.

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“But screw your courage to the sticking-place,” whispers Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), plotting a murder with her husband (Michael Fassbender). The two stand so close together, it’s as if they’re devouring each other’s breath. “And we’ll not fail.”

Justin Kurzel’s big-screen “Macbeth” is all blood and ice, a stirring, unflinching retelling of Shakespeare’s tale of a Scottish thane, his ambitious wife and a terrible deed that haunts them, leaving their hands forever stained. Shot in Scotland and England, on rugged heaths and barren beaches where warmth seems like a forgotten dream, the stylized yet raw film reflects the play’s crimson darkness. In an early, vicious battle scene (with the army looking painfully young), war cries alternate with chilly silence as a knife, in slow motion, paints a red streak on a throat. Its ending feels ominously like the closing of a chapter in a long book, with a cycle of war and death endlessly repeating.

But the focus here is where it should be: on the two central performances, both of which are mesmerizing. Fassbender (who, between “Steve Jobs” and this, is having quite a season) makes his Macbeth sad-eyed and deliberate; speaking in a soft Scottish burr, he lets us see the character’s slow descent. The “out, out, brief candle” speech, late in the film, is heartbreaking; it’s as if his humanity returns briefly, too late, for one last dance.

Movie review ★★★½  

‘Macbeth,’ with Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, David Thewlis, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor. Directed by Justin Kurzel, from a screenplay by Todd Louiso, Jacob Koskoff and Michael Lesslie, based on the play by William Shakespeare. 110 minutes. Rated R for strong violence and brief sensuality. Uptown, Seven Gables, Grand Cinema.

And Cotillard (whose natural accent nicely serves to make Lady Macbeth seem somewhat foreign and isolated) is uncanny, her face hardening before us like ice forming on a lake in winter. (When she speaks, you hear the cold wind.) “Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?” she asks herself, spooky and childlike, in a late scene; she’s become unhinged, her performance underlined by the simplicity of her delivery. Murder comes here in whispers, but it’s no less terrifying.