The Thane of Glamis sniffs out a pathway to the kingship.
Directed by Joel Coen
Starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand
Review by Jon Kissel
The films of Joel and Ethan Coen have a recurring set of themes, and over their almost 40 year career, those themes have been applied across all genres. They’ve arguably made the best comedy, the best film about a musician, the best Western, the best Hollywood satire, and the best small-time crime film of recent film history, and with The Tragedy of Macbeth, Joel Coen has made the best English-speaking Shakespeare adaptation, with only Akira Kurosawa’s Ran as competition. Without his brother, Joel Coen doesn’t miss a beat in a film that reaches objective perfection in scene after scene. This is an assemblage of actors, crew members, and creative contributors without peer, all working in sync under a director at the peak of his powers. The Tragedy of Macbeth represents the end of a wildly successful partnership, as Ethan Coen has reportedly moved into theater, but there’s no diminishing of what the viewer can expect when a film has the Coen name on it.
Adaptations of English plays into English movies have plenty of successful entries, but cross cultural adaptations automatically justify their existence in a way that English-to-English adaptations do not. New cultural vagaries, historical changes, and an entirely new environment make something old feel new, even when the transplant is as compatible as feudal Scotland to feudal Japan. Akira Kurosawa, having already adapted a Dostoevsky play with The Idiot and a Gorky play with The Lower Depths in the same year, brings his version of Macbeth to the samurai period with Throne of Blood. Well-suited to large and operatic noh style of acting long present in Japan, Throne of Blood provides Kurosawa with another opportunity to work with Toshiro Mifune, a pairing that automatically means this is a can’t miss film from one of the greatest actor-director combos in cinematic history.
Undaunted by the COVID pandemic, Stephen Soderbergh keeps up his prolific filmmaking rate with No Sudden Move, his 11th movie in the last decade, not counting his 20 episodes of The Knick. Returning to the kind of small-potatoes criminals and corporate crime that he’s made so many great films about, No Sudden Move ties the Detroit denizens of the mid-50’s into the collusion of the Big Four automakers, with most involved out of their depth when compared to the opportunity before them. What distinguishes No Sudden Move from earlier Soderbergh films, however, is the involvement of sole writer Ed Solomon. Where Soderbergh has previously worked with writers like Stephen Gaghan and Scott Z. Burns or adapted works by titan authors like Elmore Leonard, Solomon’s credits include Super Mario Brothers and the Now You See Me franchise. Soderbergh shoots and edits all his films, and this is no exception, but Solomon doesn’t provide his director with enough of the good stuff to make No Sudden Move truly stand out against Soderbergh’s considerable filmography.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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