Well, I said I’d be back later this week with an update from the New York Film Festival as soon as reviews rolled in for The Tragedy of Macbeth, the newest film by Joel Coen of the Coen Brothers. And you may want to sit down lest you suffer a shock: it’s pretty great!
Yes, audiences everywhere are singing the praises of Coen’s Shakespearean adaptation, to the tune of a 91 Metacritic score and 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Evidently the film, which came as a surprise to many pundits due to the seemingly mismatched director/author combo, makes perfect sense in execution. For starters, the noir-esque story of betrayal and greed lends itself perfectly to a director who made his bones in the genre. Shakespeare’s knack for weird-ass characters showing up in the middle of the story for no reason is the most Coen thing I’ve ever heard of.
But the angle is far from the only thing that has audiences buzzing. Almost every aspect of the filmmaking has earned acclaim – and a lot of acclaim at that. Denzel Washington supposedly gives one of his best performances as a weary, vulnerable take on the infamous Scottish King. Similarly ingenious is his costar Frances McDormand, who plays the role as less conniving and more practical (and moral) than several adaptations. Also receiving praise were Bertie Carvel’s Banquo, Kathryn Hunter’s creepy take on the three Witches, and especially Corey Hawkins of In The Heights fame as Macbeth’s rival Macduff. Macduff’s role is often overlooked in adaptations of the play, yet Hawkins hones in on the character’s pain and internal rage, to great effect.
Meanwhile, Coen supplies the film with sumptuous, ethereal production value. The film is pumped full of ominous fog, all captured by Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography, shot in 4:3 black-and-white – in case you were wondering, this should be your Best Cinematography frontrunner. Coupled with Carter Burwell’s score and Mary Zophres’ costumes, and you have a filmed hailed by many critics as one of the finest Shakespearean adaptations in history. You can bet your ass I will be there front and center when this film officially opens later this year. The Tragedy of Macbeth will open in theaters on December 25th, and will premiere on Apple TV+ on January 14, 2022.