By Dwight Brown NNPA News Wire Film Critic
In 2021 the New York Film Festival was live and in-person and exhibited a wide array of international films. Documentaries and feature films that broke new ground, showcased Black actors at their best and premiered some blockbusters that will be in movie theaters and on streaming services later this year or early 2022.
Anticipation is high for “The Tragedy of Macbeth” with Denzel Washington. There comes a point in every year when audiences see a film they believe is this year’s masterpiece. This is that time, that film. Joel Coen (O, Brother Where Art Thou) has created a magnus opus that sets a high bar few other films vying for annual awards will reach. He reinterprets one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Macbeth, keeping the most pivotal parts. Some potential viewers may have forgotten the crux of the plotting, but not the most famous lines: “Double, double toil and trouble;” "What’s done cannot be undone."
Scottish general Macbeth (Denzel Washington) is warned by three witches (Kathryn Hunt) that someday he will be king. Heeding that prophecy and egged on by his ambitious wife Lady Macbeth (McDormand), the impatient general kills the current king, becomes the new ruler and murders more people during his uncontrollable fits of paranoia. A rebellion erupts, aiming to overthrow him. Themes of greed, deception and ruthlessness mirror the U.S.’s recent political spectrum and should enthrall audiences with its timeliness. Shot in stunning black and white (cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel) with the most arresting production design (Stefan Dechant), art direction (Jason T. Clark), set decoration (Nancy Haigh) and regal costumes (Mary Zophres) vivid images from this film will mesmerize audiences as much as the penetrating dialogue, treacherous plot points and Coen’s gifted direction and writing.
Comparisons to the style of Laurence Olivier’s classic 1940s Shakespeare adaptations and early twentieth century German expressionism are noted, but Cohen’s netherworld seems unique and new in its own way. Not filmed as a stage play, not set in real surroundings. When Oscar acting nominations are handed out, expect Washington’s brooding performance and McDormand’s scheming portrayal to top the lists. Award nominations should also be given to Alex Hassell as the sleazy vulture Ross, Bertie Carvel as Banquo, Moses Ingram as Lady Macduff and Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton) as the brave and righteous Macduff. Every element of this work of art is beyond excellent. Who could have guessed that sheer ruthlessness could be so damn astounding?