Sweeney Todd - A Masterpiece Wrapped in Death and Covered in Blood
by Ken Evans
December 18, 2007
I mentioned in my review of No Country for Old Men that the anticipation for a film can drive you crazy. Well, last Thursday night the anticipation I had felt over the last few months was finally quenched, and let me tell you that it was a glorious feeling. I drank deeply from the well of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, long satisfying swallows, and walked away longing for more. These are the moments that give me the strength to trudge through some of the mindless dribble that I have to see during the year. It's the hope that in the midst of all the horrible and average movies, there will be a shining few that will rise high above the others and make us remember why we love film in the first place. Tim Burton has once again given us a masterpiece.
Sweeney Todd is a horror musical set in old London during the 1800's. It is the story of a barber named Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) who was wrongly exiled by the evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman). After years in exile, Barker returns to London, although now going by the name of Sweeney Todd, to take back his wife and daughter and to exact revenge on Judge Turpin. Returning to his home he befriends Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) who tells him that his wife had poisoned herself and Turpin had adopted Todd's daughter as his own. With the help of Mrs. Lovett, Todd sets off on his plan to kill Judge Turpin.
This is a story about a good man who has been beaten by the world and no longer has respect for anything in it. Hate and ill will have overtaken him to the point where the good man that he used to be no longer exists. In his place now resides an evil man who's only thought lies on revenge; a man wanting nothing other than to make the world right by ridding it of the one who had wronged him. Although his methods are gross and wrong, you can't help but quietly cheer him on because of the dastardly deed that was done upon him.
Be warned, this is a full fledged musical with very little dialogue that isn't set to music. The trailer is a bit deceptive about how much of the film is sung, especially for those who haven't heard of Sweeney Todd before. Hopefully, knowing that this is a musical won't change anyone's mind about seeing it. It is absolutely a wonderful film that is dark and bloody, while at the same time funny and lighthearted. Making bloody and lighthearted go together could only be attained by the master director Tim Burton.
Tim Burton has delivered a true masterpiece wrapped in death and covered in blood. He has a way of making you fall in love with the dark and weird side of things. That is why Burton was perfect for this adaptation. He creates worlds that are very fantastical and ends up turning them into a reality. This doesn't always work as planned as we can see from two of his past attempts, Planet of the Apes (2001) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). On the whole, Tim Burton has given us some great classics that are definitely on my all-time favorites list, like Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and Big Fish.
One of Burton's greatest talents is the ability to bring out Johnny Depp's best performances. Perhaps the greatest director and actor duo in film history, Burton and Depp again show us what can be achieved on the big screen. We already know that Depp is an unbelievably amazing actor, but his performance in Sweeney Todd goes right up there as one of his top performances, if not his best. How he hasn't won an Oscar or a Golden Globe yet is inexcusable, and hopefully will be rectified this year. Depp has the rare gift of being able to completely melt into his character so that he wholly becomes the person he is playing. His performance in Sweeney Todd is no different.
What is truly amazing about this film is that Johnny Depp doesn't have the only outstanding performance. In fact every major actor and actress presented themselves flawlessly. Helena Bonham Carter was absolutely brilliant, and I would consider it her best performance since Fight Club or Big Fish. I will be shocked if she doesn't win the Golden Globe for Best Actress (in a Musical or Comedy). Alan Rickman is the perfect man to play the villain Judge Turpin. I love watching him on the screen, as he has proven himself as a well rounded actor. He is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Sacha Baron Cohen (as Signor Adolfo Pirelli) is hilarious as always, although I think there is more to him then just comedy relief. I think he is a great actor who thus far has confined himself to being funny. As you will see in Sweeney Todd, there is a serious actor under there waiting to get out. Finally, Timothy Spall (as Beadle Bamford), who seems to be in every movie these days, pulls out another great supporting character performance. Even though he plays the same type of character in every film, he does it perfectly and I never get sick of him.
I truly hope this film gets the support and praise that I feel it deserves. I absolutely loved it, and it is easily making its way into my top films of the year. If you are having a hard time getting past the fact that it's a musical, get over it. Broaden your horizons, open your mind and experience something different. I can't promise that you will love the musical aspect, but you won't be able to deny the performances given by the actors and the world that Tim Burton has created.
Of all the films opening this coming weekend this is my favorite and I will definitely be going again. Since I'm the only one of my group of friends who has seen it, the inability to discuss it has been killing me. So please let me know what you think when you see it and comment below. I hope you walk away with as much excitement as I did.