Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street

*****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Edward Scissorhands is back - and this time he's mad.

Once upon a time there was a barber. The barber had a wife, and she was beautiful. But he was naive. Such is the legend which begins this torrid tale of obsessive love, jealousy, corruption and revenge. As the organ booms out its furious notes over the opening credits, we know we're in for quite a ride. The illustrious names which appear on the bloodstained screen can only add to this impression, and it's safe to say that every one of them is on top form. Johnny Depp gives one of the greatest performances of his career as the terrifying, vengeful, yet curiously innocent Todd, a complex anti-hero returned from slavery in search of justice - or, failing that, in search of blood. He is matched by a superb Helena Bonham-Carter as Mrs Lovett, maker of the worst pies in London, hopelessly besotted and at first an apparent victim, though she turns out to have some dark secrets of her own. This is an archetypal gothic tale with little room for redemption or salvation, but it's thrillingly told and dazzling throughout.

Copy picture

From a purely technical point of view, this is undoubtedly Tim Burton's greatest work to date. Its grimly muted visuals conjure up all the squalor of nineteenth century London, yet it is exquisitely shot, with a patchwork of ambitious images blending seamlessly into the whole. Bright red blood comes as a relief and scatters across the sets with Cormanesque glee. The lighting is inspired and the simple sets brought to life by vivid camerawork.

If the film has any weaknesses, they are in pacing - there are couple of moments when it slows more than it should - and in the casting of Jamie Campbell Bower as Todd's sometime colleage, now enamoured with his lost daughter. Bower looks the part and is believably naive himself, but he doesn't have the weight to work alongside the other actors. Young Ed Sanders acquits himself better as the child whom Mrs Lovett takes in, but handles himself awkwardly in his most complex scene. To counter this, however, there's some terrific work from Alan Rickman as the judge who once condemned Todd, and Sacha Baron Cohen's turn as rival barber Pirelli is a delight. There's always too much happening for the weaker performances to significantly detract from the whole. The tremendous tension which builds up at the start is never allowed to slacken as we watch Todd and his companions dance inexorably toward their doom.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street will almost certainly emerge as one of this year's finest films. Don't miss it.

Reviewed on: 22 Jan 2008
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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street packshot
Musical mayhem, murder most foul, and meat pies with a difference in a gothic tale of doomed love and deadly obsession.
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Chris ***

Director: Tim Burton

Writer: John Logan, adapted from the musical by Stephen Sondheim.

Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Ed Sanders

Year: 2007

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US, UK

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