“The Tragedy of Macbeth”


Metacritic (8/10), Rotten Tomatoes (****)

While William Shakespeare’s legendary tragedy has been translated to the screen more times than one can count, this version from director Joel Coen does remarkable justice to the material in technical terms. The stark black-and-white cinematography and stylish production design reminiscent of German expressionism are positively stunning, suitably complemented by deft film editing and the ethereal score of Carter Burwell. The superb ensemble cast delivers, too, particularly protagonist Denzel Washington and supporting players Corey Hawkins and, especially, Frances McDormand. If I were to find a shortcoming here it would be that the picture isn’t as emotionally engaging as it could have been, with its cold, distant ambiance putting up an often-imposing wall between narrative and viewers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, given the filmmaker’s take on this story, but it admittedly keeps the audience at arm’s-length more than some cinephiles may feel comfortable with. Still, the timeless quality of this tragedy nevertheless comes through, making this one of the finer offerings of 2021.