Billy's Film Reviews.

A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – 2007

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The countless collaborations between Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp prove that monogamy is alive and well today in Hollywood. Teaming up once again for a dark, brooding and gothic tale revolving around mystery, revenge and love, 2007’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is an unforgettable musical that thrilling and chilling through sharp razors and callous blood spilling.

Adapted from Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s musical from 1979 of the same name, Burton’s modern creation is a near perfect cinematic transition. Set in a gothic Dickensian-inspired town, “Sweeney Todd” begins quite strikingly.
The opening is emotionally tethered with tragedy and some occasional humour. The history of Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) is explored early on in a sombre fashion.
Establishing a potent and passionate motivation for Barker, his newly created alias Sweeney Todd is a troubled and vengeful figure you won’t stop until he has his redemption.

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Known for his exceptional grooming skills as a barber, Barker associates himself with Mrs. Lovett, a cockney, middle aged pie shop owner who is infamously notorious for having the worst pies in town, even she is aware and accepting of this fact.
Enraged with the world and the circumstances of which have effected him so greatly, Barker sets himself upstairs above Mrs. Lovett and begins to carry on his business of barbering the townsfolk, except, Barker’s (or Todd’s) shaves are a little too close.

Brutally and maliciously cutting the throats of his clients with the sole intention of one day reaching the dreadful Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), Sweeney Todd slowly exacts his revenge.

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Mrs. Lovett benefits from Sweeney’s homicidal hobbies as she begins to add the freshest of meat into her once disgusting pies. The unique but appealing taste of human flesh results in Mrs. Lovett actually having some substance in her pies and beginning a successful business for once.
Of course, the townsfolk have no idea about the precise ingredients of the pies, but as long as they taste pleasant, life carries on.

The cast is superb with every member giving an astonishing performance. Hair and makeup play an immense part in creating these otherworldly characters; an incredible element to the piece overall.
The typical Burton-esque design is once again seen in “Sweeney Todd”, which is something that is just so enthralling and mysterious, one can only imagine what goes in inside the mind of such a man.
From the elaborately immaculate hair on Depp’s Sweeney, to the eyebrow-less damsel in distress Johanna (Jayne Wisener), it is clear that Burton has a vision that he has meticulously brought to life.

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Sacha Baron Cohen is one of the most intriguing men in Hollywood. It is impossible to pin-point where he stands in terms of a label.
We knew him once upon a time as the extremely crude, barrier pushing, controversial anarchist to audience’s eyes with “Borat” and atrocities such as “Brüno”  and “The Dictator” (some would call him America’s more extreme answer to Chris Lilly), but on the other hand, he is capable of delivering incredible performances in films such as “Les Misérables”, “Hugo” and “Sweeney Todd”. Cohen plays Pirelli, an eccentric entertainer who is cruel, mischievous, arrogant and frustrated.
His brief but powerful performance is just one of the many highlights of “Sweeney Todd”, yet it deserved extra commendation.

In amongst the darkness, the eeriness and the gothic atmosphere of “Sweeney Todd”, it at times is reminiscent of the final “Harry Potter” films. The foggy streets with ominous cobblestoned alleys, footpaths and figures behind every corner. Sure, these two films have nothing in common as far as narrative is concerned, but seeing the likes of Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spell and Jamie Campbell Bower again is strangely ironic.

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Musicals have the power to engross and alienate audiences. Singing the majority of the film’s dialogue can wear off quite quickly and become boring very easily. Thankfully, the soundtrack to “Sweeney Todd” is brilliant. The sounds of Johnny Depp singing at times are odd, but he does posses a surprisingly charming singing voice. The songs are engaging, topical and passionate. The harmonies are excellent and the lyrics are superb. The song “My Friends” is such an ominous but romantic tune with arguably the most substance behind it. It sets up the remanning acts exquisitely.

To tackle a musical is always brave, but Tim Burton, along with his two most favourable accomplices has created an mesmerisingly enchanting tale of redemption, cruelty, murder and love. “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” has been given some critical reviews by some, but it can be assured that this is one of the grander cinematic musicals of the past decade. Haunting, humorous, heartfelt, harrowing and hellish, “Sweeney Todd” is an exceptionally diverse and passionately crafted piece that concludes in spectacular fashion.

4.5/5

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