Sweeney Todd (Review)

Exeposé 532

Sweeney Todd is a strange little film; distinctly Burtonesque to the point that the cast essentially amounts to the director’s family and friends and the first musical for a fair old while to be slapped with an 18 certificate, it sounds quite ridiculous in theory. But thankfully Sweeney Todd has turned out to be not only the most fun I’ve had in a cinema for months but also Burton’s best film since Big Fish.

Based on Stephen Sondheim’s musical adaption of the penny dreadful character, the film sees naïve young barber Benjamin Barker lose his wife and child to the deliciously decadent Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), returning fifteen years later  as Todd to seek his revenge, assisted by the smitten Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham-Carter). Before long, Todd is cutting a bloody swathe through London and Mrs. Lovett is producing far meatier pies…

Burton creates a fantastically vivid depiction of London in what is essentially his most horror-oriented film since Sleepy Hollow. Armed with Sondheim’s manically discordant backdrop, his world is marvellously surreal and utterly engrossing. It is also shockingly gory, with claret pumping out of punters left and right once the film really gets going in what is really a rather jarring spectacle.

But the film’s main attraction is its cast; Bonham-Carter easily comes out best, her Mrs. Lovett benefiting from the actresses’ wonderful facial nuances and delightfully odd singing voice- the lack of an Oscar nod is nothing short of criminal. Depp’s Todd, meanwhile, is a surprisingly complex yet assuredly iconic character; a shy man driven by a hunger for revenge and plagued by the occasional spells of bloodlust. Alan Rickman makes a brilliantly sinful antagonist, as well as a surprisingly adept singer (even if his screentime is scarce), whilst Timothy Spall is a superbly repulsive lackey.

All in all, Sweeney Todd is an oddly tender but blood-soaked wonder. With great songs and an even greater cast, this comes highly recommended. Just don’t think about it too much next time you’re at the barbers…


This entry was posted in Exeposé 2007-2008, Films, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

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