The Tragedy of Macbeth [ Grade: 91.25%]

Director: Joel Coen

Story By: Joel Coen

Cast: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Alex Hassell, Corey Hawkins, Kathryn Hunter, & Sean Patrick Thomas

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A beautiful, faithful adaptation of a Shakespearean work that has a great mergence of classic and modern in terms of look and feel. 

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Below are my grades for key components in #TheTragedyOfMacbeth that I find to be key in any story/film/series—Theme, Plot, Pacing, and Character (pertaining to arc/development &/or delivery). FYI: My A=95, A- =90, B=85, B-=80…etc. My D- =60 and my F=50

Additionally, I have added an entertainment factor scale to help you determine whether or not the film is something you’d be interested in taking time out of your weekend, evening, or day to watch. The scale range consists of: Worth the Watch/$$$, Interesting Enough (if looking for something new to start, OR experience is intentionally relevant to the genre and executed well–nothing more), Wait for Streaming, Don’t Rush, & Don’t Watch.

I have also added a few non-spoiling thoughts, wonderings, and comments as I watched the film to help give some rationale for my grades and entertainment scale.

* * *

Theme: A

Plot & Story: A-

Pacing: A-

Character: A-

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Entertainment Factors

General Public: Interesting Enough

Film Enthusiasts: Worth the Watch / $$$

Experience Seekers (via Visuals & Score): Interesting Enough

Classic Drama / Thriller Fans: Worth the Watch / $$$

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1. They threw him over the banister! OMG! 🤭🤭🤭

2. The tragedy of Macbeth tells the story of a general’s wife who encourages her husband to take power into his own hands after a prophecy, and his attempt to keep power in the midst of madness. 

For the most part, the story is pretty faithful to the original text which is its strength weakness for me. 

I want to start with the weakness because the strength definitely makes up for one aspect of it, and that’s the dialogue and it’s purpose to help with story understanding. When the film began, I was like “ugh! Not the  Shakespearean tongue!” For those who may not have read any Shakespeare and aren’t familiar with the story, trying to follow the dialogue to know what’s happening is very difficult, so it makes it hard to sort of confirm whether or not everything really makes sense if you’re not REALLY paying attention. 

Additionally, I wanted a little more from Act One to set Lady Macbeth up, as well as lay a little more groundwork for Macbeth himself. Somewhat similar to my feelings about The Green Knight, there isn’t much about these 2 in regards to “power” to justify what happens, nor is there anything about their relationship to help explain Lady Macbeth’s hold and control over Macbeth to make him follow her lead. Yes, I know the story stays faithful, but I think a beauty of adaptations is being able to fill in, or exacerbate gaps when necessary.  

Now the strengths are Acts 2 and 3, as well as the concluding of scenes that make following the story pretty easy. Acts 2 and 3 can easily be followed without even needing the dialogue which is actually a testament to the performances and direction. It’s also the moments of the story where the premise comes to life. 👍🏾👍🏾

3. The scene where Denzel hears of Malcolm and McDuff in England, and he asks for his armor… LMAO #Hilarious and SO good. 😂

4. Oh, when Lady Macbeth said “to bed…” with that look… I felt that. 😬

5. Now I want to be very clear that this film is stunning, AND also a beautiful (and even tranquil) showcase of black and white cinematography. However, with the Shakespearean tongue and the relaxing beauty of the cinematography—mainly in Act One—pacing felt a little slow, and I found myself working to stay awake. 

On the flip side, the film moves quite well to the point of Act 2 feeling as if it came right on time—a good calm of Act One before a nice storm of Act 2. I do still still believe that had more space been used in Act One to set up the Macbeths, there could’ve been a little more purposeful activity to make that act a little more “alive…” 👍🏾

6. YEEEESSSS Monteith! #MmMmMm😍😍

7. There are 2 components with the characters that I found to be strong. 

a. The performances. First and foremost, Denzel MF Washington was PHENOMENAL! I truly wasn’t expecting to enjoy him as much as I did, especially in Act 3. It was his overall delivery of the Shakespearean tongue along with the varied emotions of Macbeth. Although the language felt “foreign,” his delivery made it feel universal and the situation understandable. 

Frances McDormand also delivered a solid performance. The night walk and talk in the courtyard was the moment that stood out to me most. 

Kathryn Hunter as the witches… She understood the assignment completely. She was really captivating to watch in her moments. 

b. The diversity. It wasn’t a lot, but there were definitely more Black people than I expected to see in this film. And not just any “Black people,” but Black people many would be excited to see. AAAND they all were really great in their roles. 

My only issue with the character element, as alluded to in my statement about the story and pacing of Act One, is the arc support for the Macbeths. To say it in a more plain way, nothing about Macbeth in Act One says he was that ruthless of a person to do what he did. Yeah, we can imply that because of his rank he had the physical ability to do it…but he never came off as having the mental and emotional ability to do it. 

And the same for Lady Macbeth in terms of not really knowing where her seemingly innate passion to do such a thing came from… and if this is how they are in general, what could’ve been added to showcase a romance/love built on such a suppressed evil in Act One? 🤔🤷🏾‍♂️

8. UGH the cinematography was just BEAUTIFUL! The use of dark spaces with characters, and the clouds and smoke… Like, MY GOODNESS! 😩😩🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾

9. When the leaves blew in the window…I loved the imagery of that moment. 😩🙌🏾

10. The messaging of this film seemed to be very obvious throughout, and my personal interpretation of that theme would be a focus on the idea of (bad) Karma and the role our display of any of the deadly sins play in how such Karma reveals itself. 

Again, Acts 2 and 3 are the strongest in terms of showcasing the sin of greed—mainly through Lady Macbeth first, and the followed through with Macbeth himself time continues, adding in a little of the anger/wrath sin—and one symbolism of the witches/crows/ravens being the lingering karma of death.

I also think Ross’ character symbolized something important in terms of the karma that ensues on the Macbeths—I just can’t quite put my finger on it. 👏🏾👏🏾👍🏾

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Overall #TheTragedyOfMacbeth gives—and I want to preface these film connections with the understanding that this story is a foundational story from a “founding author/playwright” that has inspired many films and stories today, so it might feel a little backwards to do this (and I wasn’t going to at first)…but I think this helps give a mental touchpoint for some folk as a reference for possibly making a decision on if one would want to watch it or not—Shakespeare’s Macbeth (in Original text) – meets Act 3 Patrizia Reggiani in House of Gucci – meets Act 3 Gypsy and Nick of The Act – meets Cersei’s “reveal” in episode 9 of Game of Thrones.  

The Tragedy of Macbeth is one of the most beautifully directed films of 2021. Denzel Washington gives a performance that will definitely be remembered for a long time, and his name in Oscar conversations is more than deserving (He, along with Frankie Faison and Andrew Garfield are my 3 top male performances of 2021. Hands Down). 

And again, I was really excited to see as many Black people as I did in this film, especially 2 particular Black men.

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