Home The Tragedy Of Macbeth

The Tragedy Of Macbeth (15)

Cast: Frances McDormand, Alex Hassell, Bertie Carvel, Denzel Washington
Genre: Drama
Author(s): Joel Coen
Director: Joel Coen
Release Date: 26/12/2021 (selected cinemas)
Running Time: 105mins
Country: US
Year: 2021

Impatient to realise the witches' prophecy that he will be anointed Thane of Cawdor and then "king hereafter", Lord Macbeth and his wife murder King Duncan and frame the royal chamberlains. Rightful heirs Malcolm and Donalbain flee, fearful they may be next, and a vengeful Macduff clashes blades with the newly crowned king as Birnam Wood comes to life, just as the hags foretold.


LondonNet Film Review
The Tragedy Of Macbeth (15)

Since 1982 when production began on the blackly humorous low-budget crime thriller Blood Simple, Joel Coen has been creatively linked at the hip with his brother Ethan, sharing credits as directors, screenwriters and editors (under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes). The siblings collected Oscars for their lip-smackingly macabre screenplay to Fargo, which also garnered Joel’s wife Frances McDormand her first win as Best Actress, then added to their haul in 2008 with three golden statuettes for No Country For Old Men including Best Picture and Best Achievement In Directing…

For this stripped-back adaptation of the Scottish play, Joel flies solo for the first time. Working closely with cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, he delivers a stark, haunting interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays, shot in crisp black and white on sound stages in a claustrophobic square aspect ratio that heightens the emotional suffocation. Production designer Stefan Dechant’s imposing, angular sets work in queasy harmony with Coen’s truncated version of the text, constructing seemingly endless stone staircases and vertigo-inducing corridors to sow seeds of insanity as Macbeth delivers his soliloquy (“Is this a dagger which I see before me..?”)

Casting an imperious Denzel Washington in the title role and McDormand as his conniving spouse refracts bloodthirsty ambition through a lens of two childless sixty-somethings teased with the possibility of finally seizing power after so many years on the periphery. Their desperation is palpable. It is now or never.

Impatient to realise the witches’ prophecy that he will be anointed Thane of Cawdor and then “king hereafter”, Macbeth (Washington) and his wife (McDormand) murder King Duncan (Brendan Gleeson) and frame the royal chamberlains. Rightful heirs Malcolm (Harry Melling) and Donalbain (Matt Helm) flee, fearful they may be next, and a vengeful Macduff (Corey Hawkins) clashes blades with the newly crowned king as Birnam Wood comes to life.

With a running time of just 105 minutes, The Tragedy Of Macbeth loses slightly too much dramatic meat from supporting characters but some of Coen’s choices reap rewards, like his expansion of slippery nobleman Ross (Alex Hassell). In 2015, Australian director Justin Kurzel ramped up the carnage in his take on Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, shot on weather-ravaged location in England and Scotland.

Coen shows greater restraint when it comes to spilling blood on screen but the horror is just as compelling, particularly when celebrated stage performer Hunter casts a spell as the witches. Her porcelain limbs contort and twist as furiously as her words, delivered as a sonorous rasp akin to a death rattle. “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes,” she caws as crows wheel overhead. Indeed it does.

– Sarah Lee


London Cinemas Showing The Tragedy Of Macbeth


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UK and Irish Cinemas Showing The Tragedy Of Macbeth


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To: Thursday 19th May

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From: Friday 20th May
To: Thursday 26th May

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