The Tragedy of Macbeth

Written by Taylor Baker


The Tragedy of Macbeth marks the first film that Joel has made without his brother Ethan since their start in 1984’s Blood Simple. And while it’s competently presented there’s something missing. That undefinable knack that the Coen Brothers films have seemingly always had. That makes their films cultural touchstones broadly appealing and specifically nuanced and artistic.

Denzel Washington puts on the crown as Macbeth in this adaptation. His wife Lady Macbeth is played by Joel’s wife, Frances McDormand. Both actors are magnetic and drawing, capable of holding you still with a stare. The 1:33:1 square aspect ratio allows Joel and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel to capture memorable images of sturdy sets and allude to the presentation they are often depicted with on stage.

The film is heavy in Shakespearean meter, nearly indeterminable for long swaths to any unstudied ear. Though it’s a tame meticulous earthly presentation of the storied play of Macbeth, there are a few sequences that worm their way into your memory. A particular upshot of the beams in the cathedral, Kathryn Hunter’s various appearances as The WItch/Witches, and Brendan Gleeson’s moments as King Duncan before he is murdered stuck with me after its end.

While The Tragedy of Macbeth was a disappointment for this lover of the Coen Brothers filmography, seeing Joel continue to pen screenplays and pick up the camera without his brother is better than the alternative of them both hanging up their cameras. It will undeniably find a home in front of many students’ eyes in the following decade as teachers turn down the lights and nurse a hangover with the help of Apple TV+.

The Tragedy of Macbeth Trailer

The Tragedy of Macbeth will open in theatrical releases on Christmas and be available to stream on Apple TV+ on January 14th, 2022.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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