CGM Editors Choice

The Tragedy of Macbeth Review

Fair Is Foul, And This Is Good Fare
| Jan 25, 2022
Director(s): Joel Coen
Actor(s): Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Alex Hassell
Film Genre(s): Drama
Running Time: 105 min

Macbeth has been brought to the stage countless times, but hardly ever to the screen in a non-stage-adaptation form. Sure, in recent years we’ve been blessed with a small bounty following the 2015 production with Fassbender, but there’s plenty of room for more interpretations. Thankfully, Joel Coen (of the Coen brothers fame) rose to the occasion, with The Tragedy of Macbeth.

Of course, credit is due to the cast when I proclaim that The Tragedy of Macbeth is a triumph, not just Coen’s screenplay and direction, on top of Bruno Delbonnel’s stunning cinematography. Everyone who worked on the set direction, the lighting: every facet of The Tragedy of Macbeth deserves proper praise. Everything came together to form a cohesive vision, led by a strong cast, with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, titans of their industry, at the top, as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively.

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This is a very strait-laced version of the play, with Shakespearean dialogue to boot. As such, it’s going to be a bit stuffy for some, but it begs for introspection and further deliberation long after the credits roll. The Tragedy of Macbeth is both sombre and exciting, with brief but powerful moments of comedy and action.

It also has the alluring feel of a stage production through plenty of trickery with the sets and camerawork. Truth be told, it’s one of the best adaptations of a Shakespearean work I’ve seen to date, deserving of comparisons to some of Kenneth Branagh’s best work.

The Tragedy of Macbeth is both somber and exciting, with brief but powerful moments of comedy and action.”

Macbeth is a very complicated character that toes the line of being sympathetic, and hiring Washington was a masterstroke. We’re conditioned to like him, but seeing him commit horrendous acts either directly or indirectly; we grow to loathe him as Macbeth, while remaining torn over our thoughts. Frances McDormand is a perfect match, as you can buy into the relationship between these two characters as she holds her power over her husband and manipulates him in a subtle way that never feels heavy-handed.

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McDormand is known for her subdued, yet emotionally charged performances, and she has a lot to work with through a combination of the source material and Coen’s massaging of the script. I would be remiss not to mention Kathryn Hunter’s turn as the Witches; a similarly balanced portrayal that shows us that something is not quite right, without ripping away the humanity of the production.

With a cunning mix of tension and drama, Macbeth is a story that’s lived on for centuries and has justified itself at every turn. This is a world of desolation that Joel Coen, with plenty of help, has transformed into something bountiful.

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Final Thoughts

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