The Tragedy of Macbeth ***
Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand in The Tragedy of Macbeth
Cinematic Shakespeare adaptations face a whole mess of unique challenges: comparisons with previous adaptations of the same material; questions of what a cinematic interpretation should do differently from the stage; the choice of acting styles for the key roles. Director Joel Coen—working for the first time without Ethan—hits some things just right in his version of “the Scottish play,” and others not quite so much. He’s got Denzel Washington as the nobleman of the title, and Frances McDormand as the ambitious Lady Macbeth who pushes her husband to regicide, which would seem to be a pretty solid foundation. Yet they actually turn out to be the least successful part of this Macbeth, swallowing a lot of the poetry that makes these texts worth repeatedly revisiting. Fortunately, Coen and his collaborators turn it into a dynamic piece of filmmaking, with Bruno Delbonnel’s black-and-white cinematography creating haunting shadows. And there’s a stellar supporting cast, notably Kathryn Hunter pulling triple-duty as the witches to chillingly twisted effect. Virtually every choice makes this a Macbeth
that's uniquely successful because of its cinematic qualities—and only a couple of multiple-Oscar-winners make you wish there was a part of it with more theatrical oomph. Available Jan. 1 at Broadway Centre Cinemas; Jan. 14 via Apple TV+.