‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’

Stylishly stripped back and stark with its high contrast grey tones and celebration of a studio-bound setting, The Tragedy of Macbeth is, at times, breathtakingly beautiful. Yet, as a visceral experience of one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedies, director Joel Coen’s (True Grit, No Country for Old Men) adaptation is anaemic and uninvolving.

A regal Denzel Washington (Fences, Training Day) almost convinces (a little more range would have helped) as the nobleman eventually driven mad by ambition to achieve the crown as prophesied by the three witches (played by a wonderously unnerving Kathryn Hunter – Harry Potter, All or Nothing). Betrayal, madness, murder follow as Macbeth dispatches all who stand in his way, encouraged by an equally amibitious Lady Macbeth (Frances McDormand – Nomadland, Fargo). But there’s a price to pay.

With little in terms of detraction of action or artifice, the shortened experience of 105 minutes is more cerebral than emotive. Macbeth is one of the Bard’s densest (yet violent) plays. Delivery and meaning of the word (unquestionably beautifully done) is the focus here. Figures looming out of the mist or a black and white Chirico-like canvas of ramparts and cloisters may impress (hats off to cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel – Amelie, Inside Llewyn Davis), but more engagement is required.

Nominated for 3 Oscars in 2022 – best actor, production design, cinematography.

Rating: 61%

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