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Tragedy of Macbeth, The


Stars: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Corey Hawkins, Bertie Carvel, Alex Hassell, Brendan Gleeson, Harry Melling

Director: Joel Coen

'By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.' And so it does, in the evil forms of ambitious 11th century Scottish warlord Macbeth (Washington) and his Lady wife (McDormand). Victorious in battle over the Norsemen with his comrade Banquo (Carvel), Macbeth is made Thane of Cawdor in place of the incumbent (who has disgraced himself in battle), but he (and his plotting wife) have designs on the throne itself.

This is a woke version for a modern generation, with black actors taking several of the main roles, although its stylised and menacing sets are more reminiscent of classic horror films from the 1930s. Writer-director Coen (working without his brother Ethan for the first time) has truncated William Shakespeare's original text, even if all of the most familiar lines and phrases are retained.

Washington and McDormand (the director's real-life wife) both drip with lethal threat, and a hard-faced McDormand is particularly good, rendering supporting roles more insignificant than usual, although the three witches are vividly portrayed.

The real tragedy is, of course, not Macbeth's, but the poor unfortunates who stand in his way.

David Quinlan

USA 2021. UK Distributor: Apple Original Films. Black and white.
105 minutes. Not widescreen (4 x 3). UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 28 Dec 2021