“The Tragedy of Macbeth” Review: A Modern Masterpiece on a Classic Tale

Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand perfect sophistication and horror in Joel Coen’s latest film

By Jaina Gedeon, Arts and Entertainment Editor

When I heard that one of my favorite directors, Joel Coen, would be making a film version of the play with a star-studded cast including Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, I was all in. I was completely blown away by the entire film.  

One of my core memories of middle school and high school was reading one of William Shakespeare’s plays each year. While I was a big fan of English, his writing never caught a spark in me until I read “Macbethmy junior year of high school. I instantly fell in love with the characters and the elements that I still see in my favorite horror movies. 

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” is a direct adaptation of the Shakespeare classic, “Macbeth.” “Macbeth” follows a Scottish lord who is convinced by a trio of witches that he will become the next King of Scotland. Macbeth and his wife descend into greed and madness which eventually leads to their fall from grace.  

Denzel Washington is one of the most decorated actors of all time, but his role as Macbeth sets him at an even higher standard. He creates such a strong and powerful energy on screen that the audience feels it intimately. Seeing the powerhouse of Frances McDormand right next to him as Lady Macbeth is exhilarating and unbelievable.  

The entirety of the film is shown in black and white with an almost-square 1.19:1 aspect ratio, which was very common for silent films in the 1920s. These two aspects of the film add to the overall feeling that Coen portrays. These additions made it a perfectly visceral and horrifying atmosphere.  

Even though this is a modern film, it is still scripted with the traditional Early Modern English that Shakespeare is well known for. This can be a huge learning curve for many audiences, but it does not take away from the movie at all. Emotions and thoughts are evident in body language and facial expressions. These make it easy to keep track of the main storyline and different characters.   

One of the other fantastic parts of the film is the iconic role of the three witches who are all played by Kathryn Hunter. It is unbelievable how Hunter physically and emotionally contorts herself to appear like a larger-than-life force.   

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” is currently playing in local theaters but is also available to stream on Apple TV+ thanks to the new partnership of A24 and Apple. I highly recommend seeing the movie in a theater setting, but with COVID-19 ramping up again, watch wherever you are keeping yourself the safest.  

Overall, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” has no real flaws and perfectly captures the classic Shakespearean play. The acting, setting, and cinematography are stunning to look at. This is a great piece of cinema that will not only appeal to fans of the original play but also to new audiences. 

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” is rated R and contains scenes of violence that may not be suitable for all audiences. 


Rating: A+