The Tragedy of Macbeth

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.”

Coming off the 2018’s western anthology film, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, audiences were probably not anticipating the Coen brothers’ next film to be a gothic, expressionistic Shakespeare adaption. Oh, and yeah…one of the brothers is not even involved in the project. After almost forty years of making films together, it is his first entirely solo project from his brother, Ethan, but Joel Coen misses no steps in his own adaption of the cursed Scottish Play. In fact, with The Tragedy of Macbeth, the renowned writer/director has created something so distinctly his own in a style that is almost completely absent of the Coen brother’s unmistakable filmmaking style that we have all come to love in classics like Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and No Country for Old Men. The absence of the brothers’ style is nothing to be deterred by, though. Rather, this new project showcases Joel Coen spreading his filmmaking wings, and he does so in a glorious fashion.

"Not enough can be said about how masterfully shot this film is"

The performances. The photography. The sound. The…well… everything! 

Though the leads of Lord and Lady Macbeth (portrayed in this film by Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand) are usually traditionally played by those of a younger age, the decision in making the couple somewhat older is interesting in that it is of course, seldom seen, but it also adds a certain richness history to the couple. Plus, of course, with the veteran actors doing what they so gracefully do best, we the audiences have been graced by their haunting and masterful performances. Every Shakespearian line…every earth-shattering step…every look of madness. All this and more, Washington and McDormand deliver with such exquisite precision. But of course, one would not even dare forgetting to mention the excellent supporting cast of Corey Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Harry Melling, Bertie Carvel, and Alex Hassell (Macduff, King Duncan, Malcom, Banquo, and Ross, respectively), who show no weakness in keeping up with the phenomenal leads. And…Kathryn Hunter is disturbingly perfect as the infamous witches.The Tragedy of Macbeth

Not enough can be said about how masterfully shot this film is. Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography is absolutely mesmerizing. Loaded with symmetrical framing, tilted angles, and dauntingly tall, dark shadows, the photography is an essential character to the film just as much as any of the human characters are. The starkness of the shots is disturbing, yet beautiful. Frankly, it is probably one of, if not the best modern-day film to make use of the black-and-white photography in such an astonishing way. 

And of course, viewers will be quick to notice the menacing, slow, and exaggerated pounding sounds that periodically haunt Macbeth throughout the picture. This is a film that really captivates you from all angles and pulls you in closer and closer until you see the credits roll.

Let’s be clear: It is not a Coen brothers' film. It is one-hundred-and-ten-percent a Joel Coen film. All masters are at work in this picture. And whether you already love Shakespeare, or you just remember falling asleep in class while your teacher was deciphering the text for you, this film will make you love Shakespeare (or at least just Macbeth). Just…give it a try. You will thank me later.

The Tragedy of Macbeth is now playing in select theaters and streaming on Apple TV+.

5/5 stars


Film Details

The Tragedy of Macbeth

MPAA Rating: R for violence.
105 mins
: Joel Coen
Joel Coen
Denzel Washington; Frances McDormand; Alex Hassell
: Drama | History

Memorable Movie Quote: "O, full of scorpions is my mind."
Theatrical Distributor:
Official Site:
Release Date:
December 25, 2021
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: The Tragedy of Macbeth finds thetitular general and his loyal wife older and warier, desperately striving against a merciless ticking clock as they attempt to seize upon a final opportunity for power. In the chaos that ensues, their grasp on the throne unravels, terror mounts and regret enshrouds every inch of their wretched world.


The Tragedy of Macbeth