THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH: A Cinematic Treasure on a Technical Level
Directed by Joel Coen
Stars: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Alex Hassel, Bertie Carvel, Brendan Gleeson, Corey Hawkins, Harry Melling, and Kathryn Hunter
AppleTV continues to be the most consistent provider of quality to watch on their streaming service. Adding The Tragedy of MacBeth just continues to solidify that it is well worth the bang for the buck. After all when you add the quality of actors that compose this ensemble, you take a Shakespearean classic like Macbeth and throw in the creative genius of Joel Coen, then you’re bound to create an artistic cocktail that should work well on paper. And it does, The Tragedy of MacBeth is a solid film and a great adaptation of its source material taking daring risks to be different that just work and being technically stunning- one cannot deny the level of artistic skill that came together to make this work. Much like The Hand of God at the end of last year, this film is one where I can appreciate and compliment all of the components that made it work even if my grade doesn’t display it at the end of the review because much like the Italian 2021 film, this one is phenomenal in all of its aspects but just doesn’t land personally for me the way I wanted it to.
A Scottish lord becomes convinced by a trio of witches that he will become the next King of Scotland, and his ambitious wife supports him in his plans of seizing power.
MacBeth is some of the best work ever, and it really would be difficult to make it bad. No matter the changes one makes the story itself is so strong and effective that all adaptations will thrive off the original source material. So Coen is able to maneuver in the way he wants knowing that no matter which way he opts to frame the story, the bare bones of it is solid enough to keep it floating. The simplistic nature that Coen goes for is absolutely stunning, the not overly flooded production designs and the gorgeous use of black and white is effective. It doesn’t take away from the story, and brings it back to earth in a way that feels almost as if one is watching a play and not a film. Something that likely would’ve been even more effective for me had I been able to see this in a theatre and not directly on AppleTV+.
The screen play is exactly what viewers would remember from High School English, there’s nothing new to it as Coen decides to go with an “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality staying truthful to the source material. It works because the story itself is strong, but a part of me wonders if the reason I felt so distant from the film is because of the lack of change. It was so familiar and yet required utmost attention to the small details of the Shakespearean English to keep ones grasp on the story. A dangerous cocktail that teetered on making the middle o
half of the film go from interesting to vaguely uninteresting to just plain boring before we get to the falling action. This on a big screen, or as a play is far more successful when using the source material so loyally because you are forced to in those surroundings to pay full attention to all the details. When I watched this from home with a variety of distractions around me, it became near impossible to want to focus on the heavy source material that I read and have watched in various forms before.
The acting is brilliant, Denzel and Frances do not have to prove at this point just how brilliant they both are. They’re both so raw, visceral and real with their performances that its so easy for the two of them to become captivating as MacBeth and Lady MacBeth. Alex Hassell is so interesting throughout the runtime and constantly I’d perk upto see the small looks and subtle facial changes to understand and grasp his version of Ross. I wanted more for Corey Hawkins who was a strong Macduff, and I truly believe that there could’ve been fireworks had we gotten even more screentime with him and Washington. It’s Kathryn Hunter though who is the true scene stealer, her introduction being one of the most spine chilling introductions of a character in years. Her take on the Witches being so eery and goosebump-rising with even just her bodies contortions and the looks that she gives the camera, easily some of the, if not the best work in a supporting role for this years awards season.
In the end, The Tragedy of MacBeth is beautiful but there’s nothing necessarily new here- I think it’s one that will work for some better than others, but everyone can appreciate all of its excellent elements.