By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
Acclaimed filmmaker Joel Coen tackles Shakespeare and the results are miraculous. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into when I attended this screening, because Coen, who usually works with his brother Ethan, usually has a penchant for off-beat and idiosyncratic movies, storytelling, and characters. Well, Joel Coen obviously has mu ch love for the source material, because his take on The Bard’s tragic story of corruptive ambition is a transcendant and incredible experience that is sure to please both fans of Coen and Shakespeare.
For those unfamiliar with the play, Macbeth tells the story of Scottish Lord Macbeth (Denzel Washington), who has served the English crown dutifully, but is given the suggestion that he deserves so much more. Once this seed is planted, his even hungrier wife (Frances McDormand) pushes her husband to do whatever is necessary, by any means necessary to see this rise in the ranks to fruition. This goal, even if it involves murder and treason, is what Macbeth sets out to accomplish; however, as his soul is further corrupted by his desires, his journey can only end in disaster.
Written and directed by Joel Coen, based on Shakespeare’s iconic play, The Tragedy of Macbeth is a cinematic experience that reflects both the influences of Ingmar Bergman and Laurence Olivier. As I beheld this incredible theatrical film, I could easily see how both Bergman and Olivier inspired the visual pallette of the movie. It is an amazing aesthetic presentation that feels rather surreal and otherworldly.
But this never takes away from the goals of the original story. The visual and auditory impact only enhance the story and launch Shakespeare’s play into the stratosphere. This experience could not have been pulled off without the outstanding performances by the cast, though. Coen and his casting department have assembled a superb assortment of talents that interpret their roles perfectly.
The movie features top notch work by Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Root, Katherine Hunter, Corey Hawkins, and several others. Frances McDormand is exceptional (as always) as Lady Macbeth, but it is the stupendous work by Denzel Washington as the titular Macbeth. Washington obviously has a zeal and passion for Shakespeare that is clearly reflected in his realization here. I can definitely see him receiving awards nominations for his work in The Tragedy of Macbeth, and he definitely deserves it.
I also feel that Joel Coen deserves high praise and respect for his incredible interpretation of Shakespeare’s play. It is clearly a cinematic take on the story that rises above the experience of watching stage productions. The Tragedy of Macbeth will be both available for viewing theatrically and on Apple TV+ and I feel that the theater offers the best way to take all that this movie has to offer.