Currently streaming on Apple TV+ from writer/director Joel Coen based on William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth is the stunning THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH.
The Thane of Cawdor has been vanquished for King Duncan (Brendan Gleeson) by Macbeth (Denzel Washington) and Banquo (Bertie Carvel). On the road back from battle, Macbeth encounters three witches (Kathryn Hunter) who tell him he shall be king! In gratitude, King Duncan gives the title of Thane of Cawdor to Macbeth who then writes Lady Macbeth (Frances McDormand) to tell her the news – and the witch prophecy. The king also gives his praises Prince Malcolm (Harry Melling).
Spending the night at the new Thane of Cawdor’s castle, Lady Macbeth speaks to her husband about regicide. After planning and carrying out the deed, Macbeth slays the king and covers it up in the morning. Out of fear, Prince Malcolm and Macduff (Corey Hawkins) escape the castle to England and Macbeth is now wearing the crown. Ross (Alex Hassell) is keeping is ear to the castle stone walls and knows there is something amiss.
Now, Macbeth is worried about another visit from the witches about Banquo and his young son Fleance (Lucas Barker) giving his mental health another shove into darkness. Murder most foul happens again and again including Macduff’s own family. Ross finds Malcolm and Macduff to tell them the news while Lady Macbeth begins to also lose her senses.
It all comes to a final battle as Malcolm brings his English backed army to Macbeth’s castle and Macduff finds justice for his family.
Washington as Macbeth is absolutely stunning in this role. His emotions, like his lines, roll off with such grace and ease. Even in the midst of insanity, he brings us in so we can be a little mad ourselves knowing that the heinousness of his acts to be king and stay king are crazy. Be cheery in the light, it is when he steps in the shadows does Washington’s Macbeth utter evil deeds. One of the most amazing performances I have seen this year.
McDormand as Lady Macbeth is equally as jaw dropping as the woman who wants her husband to be king, no matter what it takes. The problem with that is her mental state can not handle everything that is required to make it so. McDormand glides along in her costume like her feet never touch the floor yet every step she takes is for Macbeth.
Hawkins as Macduff has a reason for leaving but a more justified reason to come back to Macbeth’s castle. His character is strong in dedication to Prince Malcolm but even family overrides that. Hassell as Ross is that sneaky fellow lurking around castles making sure that every move he makes is done so to his own benefit. Well done and well played.
Carvel as Banquo is dedicated to Macbeth but when insanity sets in, dedication only gets a loyal subject so far. Melling as Prince Malcolm has put away his Harry Potter days and has decided to become a future king.
And extremely deserved shout out to Kathryn Hunter as the witche(s). Never in my life have I been scared and yet transfixed by a character like this. She is daunting, full of riddles and, when looking intensely at the television screen, held my gaze with jaw dropping wonder. Her motion and yet lack of emotion is pure genius.
Other cast include Miles Anderson as Lennox, Robert Gilbert as Angus, James Udom as Seyton, Matt Helm as Donalbain, Moses Ingram as Lady Macduff, Richard Short as Siward, Sean Patrick Thomas as Monteith, Ethan Hutchinson as Macduff’s young son and Susan Berger as Lady in Waiting.
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THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH is brilliant on so many levels so let me just say first that the cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel and set design provided by Stefan Dechant is magic. Keeping it simple, with shades of light and dark that all play into the telling. The long foreboding shadows and high architecture where secrets are told, and plans are made is breathtaking.
The costuming by Mary Zophres is equally as simple with no fanfare of gold, heavy amour and ornate throne rooms or thrones for that matter. Taking away everything one would expect of a castle, the viewer is free to focus on the players and the end game. Here are leathers and the fabric of a by gone era that are as rough as those characters wearing them.
Carter Burwell has worked with the Coen brothers before, so it seemed comfortable to have his bring in the film’s score. He gives a frightening life with the violin over the flapping of the crows that have their own meaning in the film.
Joel Coen has taken on a wonderful task going solo and has brought a story that has been told many times but with something intensely original. From the moment the film begins, it puts our own minds into a state of ‘what is hell is this?’. As Hunter’s tries to warn us from the beginning, the tale is one of twists, turns and omens.
But oh, no matter the warning, every frame of this tale is majestic to behold!
In the end – something wicked this way comes!