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The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) | Film Review

by Amy Smith

Having studied and fallen in love with Shakespeare’s Macbeth at school years ago, I was intrigued to see what director Joel Coen would do with the source material in his latest film The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021). Having been fortunate enough to see the film early as part of the BFI London Film Festival, I can now say for sure that he does not disappoint in his first feature away from his brother Ethan.

Of course, many people were put at ease when finding out that Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand were going to play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth respectively.

Whilst they decide not to lean into a Scottish accent and instead stick with their American ones, their performances are so strong that I can forgive this. There is nobody else better at delivering such powerful monologues, and ones as famous as the ones in Macbeth.

The film is very short given the source material, clocking in at a mere 105 minutes. It seems tough to cut such a play down to this size, but the pacing flies by and the story still feels as important as it always has. Coen uses the camera to help elevate the cinematic experience of the text, creating strong visual moments that will haunt you for a long time – particularly those featuring the witches.

courtesy of IMDb

If you are not already familiar with the original text, then there is certainly a chance that the story may overwhelm you. With the story compacted down to the most significant moments, there are still a lot of characters to familiarise yourself with and the language is, still, that of Shakespeare’s times. There is a lot going on in what on the surface is a simple presentation, but it remains loyal and is made for fans of Macbeth for sure.

It may seem like we do not need any more retellings of Shakespeare’s finest works, but The Tragedy of Macbeth proves that great work can still be made with these classic stories.

If you are someone like me that has gone on from studying his work in high school to dedicating a whole semester of it in university, you will find a lot to appreciate with this latest adaptation when it releases on Apple TV at the end of the year.


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