"Macbeth" is a classic awards-season release in the most traditional way from a studio that knows a thing or two about that.

"Macbeth" is a classic awards-season release in the most traditional way from a studio that knows a thing or two about that.

A little film-nerdy background: Brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein founded the The Weinstein Company (TWC) after leaving their previous company, Miramax. The Miramax heyday in the '90s was superb, featuring "Pulp Fiction," "Trainspotting" and, coincidentally, "Shakespeare in Love."

TWC's releases have been spottier, but the Weinsteins have become famous for lobbying (often successfully) for their key releases in end-of-year awards, including the Oscars.

These Hollywood politics may be what's bringing us this latest big-screen adaptation of ol' Bill Shakespeare's most famous play, but it's also a stylish and well-acted production.

Of course, it's obvious that it's going to be well-acted. Michael Fassbender takes on the role of Macbeth with teeth-grinding gusto. He wrings life out of Shakespeare's prose like drops of dew for a man dying of thirst. It will be interesting to see whether this performance eclipses his lead in "Steve Jobs" for year-end actor accolades. It should.

The casting of Lady Macbeth is a similarly great choice in Marion Cotillard. The one-time Oscar winner (who deserved another for last year's "Two Days, One Night," which is now streaming on Netflix) proves to be Fassbender's equal in two of the most famous roles in theatrical history.

Director Justin Kurzel opts not to mess with the Scottish setting, period or language - a trio of writers are credited with the adaptation. As such, the bar for entry will lie in how interested you are in seeing a traditional Shakespearean work performed traditionally.

This "Macbeth" is also not lacking style. The costumes and sets are the kind that could rack up some nominations for TWC. But the most striking thing about this "Macbeth" - and perhaps the best reason to see it - is the cinematography by Adam Arkapaw, who was also the director of photography for the first season of HBO's "True Detective." It's gorgeously saturated and works sheer magic with haze and smoke.

Overall, it's a top-tier Shakespeare adaptation, with the limited audience that implies. Interestingly, Kurzel will reteam with Fassbender and Cotillard on his next project, an adaptation of the "Assassin's Creed" video game series.


Opens Friday

3 stars