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The Tragedy of Macbeth (15)
Directed by Joel Coen
THE play that shall not be named (in theatres at least) is stripped back to its visual and narrative core in Joel Coen’s surprisingly haunting and thrilling film adaptation of Shakespeare’s much covered work.
Shot in black and white, on a stark, minimalist stage and starring a stellar cast, Macbeth and his infamous wife, played by Denzel Washington and Coen’s wife Frances McDormand, are older than traditionally portrayed.
This powerhouse pair bring their A-game as they imbue their characters with a deeper never-before-seen complexity and determination: a couple who know that time isn’t on their side as they embark on their killer last hurrah for power, setting their sights on the Scottish throne following a prophecy from three witches.
Their subsequent descent into paranoia and madness is exquisitely disturbing to behold, and a masterclass in itself.
Coen, who is flying solo without his brother Ethan for the first time in almost 40 years, masterfully brings the Bard’s play to life in an accessible way, even to those who find it hard to comprehend and engage with. The themes of unbridled ambition and its consequences along with guilt, innocence, loyalty and fate are all explored to gripping effect.
The peppered use of bird imagery strategically interweaved with the action brings a deliciously menacing touch, along with Kathryn Hunter’s standout performance as all three witches — exceedingly physical, Gollum-esque and crow-like — ingenious and frankly frightening to behold.
As someone who has never been a great fan of the Scottish play, this refreshing and ambitious interpretation with the outstanding Washington and McDormand may have won me over.
In selected cinemas now and on Apple TV+ January 14
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