If you have seen a Tim Burton film in the past, you should know of his keen ability to create a bizarre atmosphere through the use of unusual sets and characters. His work in Sweeney Todd is no exception, as Burton brings a dark and dreary London to life. The streets that are hidden by shadows in the middle of the day is a subtle metaphor for the cruelty and corruption of the men who live there. With brilliant cinematography, Burton entices and disturbs the audience without being too overbearing. The scenes move with fluidity comparable to the blood that streams from Todd's victims throats. Excellent songs placed in the perfect spots during scenes keep the movie at a steady pace without boring the audience.
But Sweeney Todd would not be the great movie that it was without the brilliant performance from Johnny Depp, who plays the titular character. Worthy of an Oscar, Depp epitomizes the vengeful barber with a chilling perfection. The authenticity with which he portrays Todd is almost startling. His stone faced demeanor exemplifies the anger and pain that is swirling around in this character's mind like a tornado. His expressionless eyes are unwavering, showing the bleakness that lies within him. I also must say this his singing is spot on, and his rough voice is perfectly in line with the movies tone. When I heard that Helena Bonham Carter would be playing Mrs. Lovett, I thought "Oh how surprising, Tim Burton cast his wife in yet another of his movies." To my dismay, Bonham Carter actually did a very good job. Perhaps she was cast because she actually deserved it. Although her performance wasn't a knockout, she seemed very fit to play the ever lively Mrs. Lovett. Her vocal range was a bit limited, but she was able to hold a tune well and provide some solid musical numbers. Alan Rickman gives a very strong performance as Judge Turpin. Rickman, who usually has the same facial expression no matter what movie he is in, always manages to put together an entertaining act. Facial expressions mean nothing when he can so vividly show the internal hideousness of this most foul man. Although his voice doesn't seem to be suited for a musical, he only sings one song and it is a duet with Johnny Depp, a favorite scene of mine. Even though Depp gives the best performance in the film, my favorite performance has to be that of Timothy Spall as the Beadle Bamford. A beady eyed, slimy looking man, the Beadle is an outwardly ugly character that mirrors the Judge's inner unattractiveness. Spall is unforgettable and utterly revolting, which exactly what his character was supposed to be. Sacha Baron Cohen also makes an appearance in the film, but it's only for about 5 minutes. Don't worry about it.
When you watch Sweeney Todd, be sure to have the volume up really high so you don't miss a second of the outstanding score. A risk that comes from making a musical is that every song must be good, because one boring song can displace the attention of the audience for an extended period of time. Luckily, Sweeney Todd hits every note and does not bore. One criticism I do have of the film is that the plot itself does begin to wear thin later in the film. You start to feel that anxious feeling that you get when your waiting for something to end, a feeling that no movie ever wants to provoke. This is no matter, as the tragic ending is perfect, capping off a great movie with a surprising end. Watch this film. Twice. In one day. You'll like it. My rating (9/10)