Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Tim Burton
scr John Logan
with Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ed Sanders, Jamie Campbell Bower, Jayne Wisener, Laura Michelle Kelly, Michael N Harbour, Anthony Head, Peter Bowles
release US 21.Dec.07,
UK 25.Jan.08
07/UK Warner-DreamWorks 1h56
Sweeney Todd
At last, my arm is complete again: Depp and Bonham Carter

rickman spall baron-cohen

Sweeney Todd Burton and Depp reunite for a sixth time to bring Stephen Sondheim's gruesome musical to the big screen with a sinister style and an emotional tone that resonates in all the right ways. If you can stomach the gore.

After 15 years in exile abroad, Benjamin Barker (Depp) returns to 19th century London with a new name, Sweeney Todd, and a mission to get revenge against Judge Turpin (Rickman) , who with his snivelling henchman (Spall) stole his beautiful wife (Kelly) and infant daughter and charged him with a crime he didn't commit. Now set up as a barber above a pie shop run by Mrs Lovett (Bonham Carter), who has always secretly loved him, he discovers his wife poisoned herself, and that Turpin is keeping his now-teenaged daughter (Wisner) as a prisoner.

"There's a hole in the world," sings Sweeney bitterly, and we know he's looking into his own ravaged soul. Depp's staggering performance perfectly merges the story's humour, horror and romance into a serious punch to the gut. We can actually understand the conflicting rage as Sweeney goes on his murderous rampage, slicing customers at random to supply meat for Mrs Lovett's increasingly popular pies. And as the story moves to its twisted, wrenching conclusion, we vividly feel his pain.

The cast around him is terrific--Bonham Carter's enthusiastic yearning, Rickman's self-doubting cruelty, Spall's gleeful sliminess. Baron Cohen's role as a rival barber is lively and surprising, while newcomers Sanders (as a cheeky urchin) and Campbell Bower (as a love-struck sailor) create vivid side characters. Each actor conveys telling details through the sharply witty, moody songs, adding a humanity that transcends the exceedingly gothic costumes and make-up.

All of this is so expertly assembled by Burton that it nearly takes the breath away, especially at the point where hideous grisliness meets raw emotion. We're completely enveloped in the carefully detailed atmosphere, which is heavily stylised and very bleak (with brilliantly sunny flashbacks and fantasies), but is grounded in the characters' unruly feelings. And as it heads for its astoundingly gruesome finale, we can only hold on for the ride, knowing from the start that this most certainly isn't a feel-good movie.

cert 18 themes, grisly violence, language 4.Dec.07

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Sweeney Todd William Donelson, Morden, Surrey: 1/5 "This would have been a terrific movie, except for the dull, dull, dull music. Every time the movie is about to get really going, with darkness and sets oozing soot and blood, one of the characters bursts into song, dull song, and thereby torpedoes the pacing and tension. Sondheim's music and lyrics are just what you'd expect from a B-musical, ie, dull and totally forgettable. Depp, Bonham Carter, Spall, Rickman and Cohen provide superb performances, which are then stamped into the mud by the dull, dull songs. Come on, what a waste of time, talent and money!" (11.Jan.08)

Michelle, London: 3.5/5 "Maybe I'm desensitised but I didn't find the film gory at all! In fact, I found the 'gory scenes' almost pantomime. That aside, this was a really enjoyable film with great characters, I thought Helena Bonham Carter was excellent. There were also far more comedy moments than I expected which relieved the darkness when it was needed. And Sacha Baron Cohen is a really 'big boy'! His trousers alone were almost worth the 18 certificate!" (28.Jan.08)

2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall