Director Rupert Goold adapts his gripping stage production of Macbeth - with Sir Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood reprising their Tony-nominated performances - into this edgy film adaptation, which relocates the bloody action to a nameless 20th-century netherworld.
Patrick Stewart is one of the few great Shakespearean actors alive today -- you could give this guy any role, and he would enthrall you. So he seems like an obvious choice for the title role of Shakespeare's legendary play "Macbeth." This 2010 adaptation is a dark, industrial, grimy affair, with plenty of blood and eerie effects.
Shortly after a victory in battle, Macbeth (Stewart) and his friend Banquo (Martin Turner) are traveling home across a heath when they encounter three witches dresses as nurses. They greet him with "All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be king hereafter!"
When MacBeth is made Thane of Cawdor, he naturally begins to think that being king might be next in line. And when King Duncan (Paul Shelley) visits his castle, Lady MacBeth (Suzanne Burden) goads her husband into murdering the king and framing a couple of innocent servants for the deed. As the witches predicted, MacBeth becomes king of Scotland.
But the witches also prophesied that Banquo would be the father of kings, so MacBeth starts tying off loose ends by hiring assassins to kill Banquo and his young son, as well as a wily thane named MacDuff and all of his family. But though MacBeth believes himself to be safe from everyone, his fear begins to grow as madness and guilt torment him and his wife.
One of the most fascinating things about "Macbeth" is how evil it is -- mass murder, insanity, bloody ghosts, a trio of manipulative witches, and a weak man who becomes a raving murderous paranoiac. First-time director Rupert Goold seizes on all the blood, darkness and horror of the story, and splashes it all over this adaptation.
Seriously. This is VERY gory and violent: severed heads, ripped-out hearts, and dead bodies all over the place. The only place where Goold holds back is when Macduff's children are killed -- instead he conveys their deaths in a chilling but less graphic way.
The setting is very effective as well -- lots of industrial grime, shadowy rooms, and vast echoing halls with blasts of pale light. Additionally, there are some incredibly weird moments that make the story even more eerie, such as the three witches jerking and spasming through a room filled with dead bodies, or Banquo walking silently over MacBeth's table.
Goold's one drawback is that sometimes the actors get kind of... over-the-top. But Stewart is an absolute joy to play -- he gives a beautifully understated performance that taps into all Macbeth's weakness, greed, fear and madness. Just look at the odd scene where everybody starts dancing -- Stewart's energetic jumps are tinged with desperation, like he's frantically trying to look cheerful.
Burden makes an excellent Lady M., although she seems a bit young for Stewart -- her stark white face and grasping hands make her really look the part, and she has a jittery, hungry energy. and there are solid performances by Michael Feast, Scott Handy, and those women who play the witches.
Patrick Stewart is the heart of 2010's "Macbeth," but this adaptation also has lots of chilling, nightmarish freakiness all on its own. Just don't watch it around small children.Read more ›