Cast: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Alex Hassell, Bertie Carvel
Director: Joel Coen
Wow. Just wow. It’s not too often where I am truly blown away by a movie from start to finish, but good God was this impressive. Macbeth might be 400 years old, but this version is as fresh and relevant as ever. When I heard that Joel Coen would be making his directorial debut away from his brother, I knew he would come out with something spectacular and he surely came out with one of the best Shakespeare movies ever. Combine that with an all-time great performance from Washington and you have all the pieces together for one of the best movies of the year. Through its performances, creative style direction, and ability to make the script communicate to modern audiences, The Tragedy of Macbeth is 105 minutes of thrills and suspense that will keep you more than entertained every step of the way.
The film follows Lord Macbeth (Washington), a Scottish soldier who is known throughout the country as a fierce warrior who will do anything to protect his country. After a fierce battle, he encounters a mysterious figure that tells him that he will receive the title of Thane and eventually be named the King of Scotland. He is originally skeptical of this prediction, but after he receives the title of Thane, he decides that it is his fate to become the King of Scotland by any means necessary. The main thing that sticks out about this movie is just how eerie and dark the scenery felt. Let’s be honest, this is a gory and violent story at its core, and feeling that evil between the crows, the black and white film, and the background noises and tight, one-note clicks make this movie feel creepy and treacherous. While we may usually see the large-scale and open battlefields of the story, by keeping the movie close and intimate, it makes the actions of each character more impactful and feel as though they have more meaning. You’ll see this explicitly with the inclusion of the Weird Sisters (Kathryn Hunter) as this is normally three different characters, but the decision to make it one single person and then use shadows to represent the other two was brilliant and adds a level of fear not often found in other Shakespeare movies. Her rough, snarling voice is a unique change to the normal “witchy” tone that we usually see from these characters in previous attempts. Speaking of characters, the performance by Washington is one of the strongest of his storied career. We see the full range of emotions from Lord Macbeth, going from doubt of whether or not he can go through with his treachery, regret over the betrayals he committed and the evils he went through with, and eventually paranoia and rage as he clings on to his remaining power. The fact that he is not the Best Actor frontrunner right now is absolutely mind-boggling, as I can confidently say that this role is Washington at his finest. On the other end, McDormand elevates the role of Lady Macbeth in more of a supporting role and unleashes the true malice that her character has been known for in the past. Seeing two of the generation’s best actors share scenes is more than enough of a reason to go and watch this movie. Finally, I know one of the main issues that people have with Shakespeare movies is that they use the traditional Old English scripts that might as well be a foreign language. And while I agree that these movies can be hard to follow at times, The Tragedy of Macbeth is nearly seamless as you can understand almost everything exactly as it’s going on. I never had the feeling of confusion or that I didn’t understand what a certain scene was trying to articulate, so those who are less familiar with the source material will be able to comprehend everything that this movie throws at them. A well-paced, bold, and striking movie, The Tragedy of Macbeth shows audiences that it doesn’t matter how old a story is, with the right people involved, every type of movie can be a hit. The real tragedy here is how poorly this movie performed at the Academy Awards this year, but it goes to show that the best movies aren’t always the ones that end up nominated. Coen’s solo directorial debut is far and away a smash hit and one that will stick with me long after I left the theater.
Overall, I know this movie is available to stream on Apple+, but go see this movie. Get in your car, sit in traffic, stand in line behind someone who doesn’t know how to pick their seat at the ticket counter, it’s more than worth it for the masterpiece that is The Tragedy of Macbeth. From initial announcements, to teasers, all the way up to the release, this movie lives up to the hype and shows what lengths humans will go for a piece of power in this world. From top to bottom, this is a movie that brings top-tier talent from all across the board and is captivating at a truly elite level. My personal guarantee to everyone who watches The Tragedy of Macbeth is that once you are done, you two will agree that something wicked this way comes.
Final Thoughts: See It