Genre: Drama, Thriller, Musical, Fantasy
Runtime: 116 Minutes
I seem to like it more than most people, but I can’t help but feel that Sweeney Todd is a modern musical masterpiece. Among the film’s dark colour palette that seems dead it captures the 19th century gothic look, and it’s something only director Tim Burton could capture with his visionary grace. This is the sixth film that director Burton and acting veteran Johnny Depp collaborated, and it still seems the roles hold strength. This particular musical film is a stage adaption of the 1937 version of the musical of the same name. Stephen Sondheim’s masterful music meshes well with the film’s gory and eccentric fillings and will certainly have you on edge. ‘Sweeney Todd’ is one of the few musical macabre thriller films to exist and is among my personal favourite musicals.
A skilled Barber named Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) returns to the 19th century London after his 15 years of hard labour because he was falsely accused and sentenced by a corrupted judge who lusted for his wife; to find that his wife is dead and the judge has his daughter. He meets Miss Lovett (Helena Bonham-Carter), the pie shop owner whose establishment is beneath Barker’s old barbershop. He opens up business again and waits for the moment he can seek out his revenge against the judge. The one thing different about Todd's shop, however, is that no one who walks in for a trim is ever seen again.
It almost seem that Burton was born to direct this film, and if he didn’t direct this film it would certainly not be the same both storytelling wise and visually. The visual style is very dark toned and shadowed and the colour palette mostly consists of grey, black and occasionally red for the seemingly luminous blood, but for the film’s setting it suits it very well. In the musical number of ‘By the Sea’ there was a sudden change into colour, but the colours seemed more fantasy than reality. Overall the film had shadowy visuals that gave the film part of it’s gothic and gloom feel. As for the violence, be warned, it is not for the faint hearted. The throat slicing in this film is very gory, but great.
Sweeney Todd is most certainly a musical of a different breed. You compare this to musicals like Easter Parade, Hairspray (2007) and Grease and you’ll see the overwhelmingly surprising difference. Musicals are commonly happy, joyful and consist of musical numbers about love and happiness; whereas Sweeney Todd creates a chilling atmosphere along with the satirical songs of murder and revenge. Furthermore, there is no dancing here. So I give great merit for the film’s achievement of indifference with the common musical.
Grand performances are most certainly here, but not just from award winning Depp. Alan Rickman plays the role of Judge Turpin with great evil flare and even his friend Beadle Bamford played by Timothy Spall gave on a rather good show. Helena Bonham-Carter gave her character a great charm and did an excellent job as the supporting character. Another character to mention is Senior Pirelli our comedy relief for the film, played by the comedian Sacha Baron-Cohen whose singing career is over quite soon into the film. Depp is Sweeney no doubt and makes the character what it is. The character of Sweeney after his return is psychotically sinister in his quest for revenge and Depp really pulled it up. This is definitely Depp’s most chilling role to date.
Shockingly Depp’s singing voice was very good and suited the character naturally. The music was brilliant and on my first viewing, I remember how half way through the film I began to go download the songs. I now also own a physical copy of the CD and occasionally listen to it on my ITunes. In fact as I write this I am listening to it. The songs were remarkably different and where very enjoyable. They were full of a dark kind of humour, almost psychotic which gave them appeal. Some of my favourite tunes would have to be ‘No Place like London’, ‘Worst Pies in London’ and ‘Epiphany’. I actually love all of the songs except for two that I felt where outfitting. They were ‘Green Finch and Linnet Bird’ and ‘Not while I’m around’. Although, I guess it relieves the serious tone of the film.
One problem I had with the film was the incomplete love story between Sweeney’s daughter, Johanna and his fellow traveller seen at the start of the film Anthony. In the film’s final moments we never really learn what happens to the pair of them, but as the side story I didn’t care much. It was certainly the film’s weak point. The film ends in a dark and ironic way which makes the story of Sweeney Todd complete. It is not a happy conclusion which would be out of the question for a film like this, but more of a gloom and as I said, ironic one. This is truly one of Burton’s best directed films and shows even though it’s the sixth film he has done with Depp (and of course some re-appearances of previously casted actors from his past films) a spark of energy can still remain. To total it up it’s a bleedin’ masterpiece!
My Rating: 9/10