Film Review – The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021)

Title – The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021)

Director – Joel Coen (No Country for Old Men) 

Cast – Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Brendan Gleeson, Corey Hawkins, Kathryn Hunter

Plot – The famed William Shakespeare tale comes to life once more as Scottish lord Macbeth (Washington) and his ambitious wife (McDormand) look to seize power over the throne of Scotland after Macbeth’s encounter with a trio of devious witches (Hunter) sways his mind. 

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes”

Review by Eddie on 15/03/2022

First performed sometime in the early 1600’s, William Shakespeare’s famed tale of brave Scottish general turned tormented king Macbeth is a story that has seen countless adaptations for both stage, screen and written works with Justin Kurzel’s 2015 feature a recent example of the renowned work of a mind being lost to ambition and lust being turned into a product ready for public consumption. 

With so many variations and finished products, breathing new life into such a well-known tale and giving it a reason to exist in yet another format is becoming trickier and trickier for anyone brave enough to tackle the Bard’s revered works and while his a master of his craft and his Tragedy of Macbeth is a technically marvellous affair, not even Joel Coen’s work can make this newest version of Macbeth’s traumatic tale necessary or essential. 

Directing for the very first time without his brother Ethan by his side, Coen ensures every frame and scene of Tragedy is hauntingly beautiful too look at as the films black and white cinematography of Bruno Delbonnel’s camera is some of 2021’s finest artistic work and with more than a fair share of horror inspired mood and moments littered throughout (especially when the film’s focus is around Kathryn Hunter’s stunning performance as the tales witches) Coen does his best to do something different with the well-worn material but its not enough to give the freshness to Macbeth’s tale to make this new film something akin to a must-see. 

Full of typically assured performances from its name brand cast, with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand making for a great double act as Macbeth and Lady MacBeth respectively, not even the great work of such a talented collection of performers can make the “modern English” language of Shakepeare’s words more palatable for audiences of today’s day and age with dialogue often hard to fully decipher when watching the film play out with it quite possible that the deceptively simple tale of Macbeth’s fracturing mind and battle to remain himself potentially would benefit from someone tackling it in a way where the undoubtedly smart words of Shakespeare are given a modern and more understandable reworking. 

A piece of art and further proof that Joel Coen is a director of immense talent and vision, you can’t help but walk away from this adaptation with a question of what’s the point of it all?

With even Joel admitting that his brother Ethan wouldn’t have been excited to make this film with him, it’s hard not to agree that Ethan was better off not being a part of a beautiful but hollow retread of a tale that deserves to lay at rest for the time being. 

Final Say – 

Artistically proficient and filled with incredible imagery, this horror inspired Shakespeare adaptation has a lot to love in a craft sense but Joel Coen is unable to provide us with a valid enough reason for yet another Macbeth film being made. 

3 crowns out of 5 

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