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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

The times suit Tim Burton.  With technology catching up to his fertile imagination, Burton has directed some dark quirky crowd-pleasers.  Sweeney Todd finds his morbid creativity at its zenith.  Based on the popular Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical, the story is a perfect fit for his potent talents.  Delivering an aria of terror in a Hammer Horror-esque film, Burton revels in the theatrical drama of Sondheim’s bloodthirsty ode to lust and revenge.
Arriving in Victorian London after serving a trumped up prison sentence, Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) seeks vengeance.  His target is Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman)who sentenced him and destroyed his family.  Todd finds a twisted kindred spirit in Mrs Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), owner of ‘the worst pie shop in London’.  Opening a barber shop as a front for his quest, Todd also seeks out his missing daughter Joanna.  Using his razor sharp blades against his enemies, Sweeney Todd ensures that the cobbled London streets are awash in a bloody crimson river.
Burton’s continual success has allowed him to fully utilise his rich ideas. Immersing himself in Todd’s dark universe, he succeeds in exposing the operatic tragedy of his characters.  With every swish of the blade, Todd seems to lose another portion of his tormented soul.  Not realising he is becoming the monster he so despises, he perilously ignores Mrs Lovett’s sinister affections.  Burton’s miniscule use of colour blends well with the searing blackness of the story, creating a film full of monochrome nightmares.
Sondheim’s wonderful music is given a new lease of life here.  Successfully making the transition from stage to screen, the tale is given the deluxe treatment.  The eye catching production design and orchestration show the respect and care the film gives to its source. Whilst the gory visuals may be extreme for some, it shows that Burton is willing to push the envelope when needed to properly tell the story.  The acting is of a high standard, with Depp and Bonham Carter enjoying their disparate souls living a hellish existence.   Edward Sanders is a stand out as Tobias Ragg, a young urchin who unwittingly helps the duo in their nefarious deeds.
It’s heartening that Tim Burton still has the courage to take chances than play safe.  Enriching Sondheim’s expert song-writing, the film’s tale of obsessive revenge excites with its memorable visual flair.  Not for the faint hearted, Sweeney Todd expertly blends theatre and cinema making for a very sinister penny dreadful.
Rating out of 10:  9

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