Embark on the thrilling and magical spectacle, something crafted so beautifully that it only makes sense that Steven Spielberg the grandmaster of filmmaking could put it together.
An adaptation of the 1957 musical, West Side Story explores forbidden love and the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.
Imagine starting your job in 1971 and still being at the top of your game 50 years later. Well, that’s exactly the case for Steven Spielberg who directed his first musical, the legendary tale of West Side Story, and it’s simply marvellous. It’s a tale as old as time, it’s Romeo and Juliet in New York and tells the story of the Maria (Rachel Zegler) and Tony (Ansel Elgort) the two star-crossed lovers who are trying to find love in a hopeless place.
When this was announced I wouldn’t say I was excited to rush to a theatre and see it, but there I was opening day sitting down ready to be blown away. Within the first 20 minutes, you understand you’re probably watching the best picture winner, right around when Riff (Mike Faist) and the rest of the Jets break into the first song and dance number of the film. From the incredible and newly design choreography, that makes this feel more modern, and the talented singers across the board. Every time a musical number started I couldn’t help but find myself tapping my own foot on the theatre floor. Every single person in this film is a triple threat, everyone is singing, dancing and acting their asses off in order to make this one of the most enjoyable movie going experiences of 2021. You can’t help but find yourself smiling throughout the film, because the singing and dancing is so euphoric to look it. It’s memorizing, because the work that went into making sure the choreography was a technical marvel. To the point where you’re unsure of who to look at during certain numbers, because everyone is killing it on screen.
One thing that really separates Spielberg from other film-makers is his craftsmanship of camera work. He always knows how to perfectly capture a shot or a moment, where something as simple as Tony standing in a puddle, can become one of the most memorable shots in the entire film. The lights are bright, the colours are eye-popping, the costumes are gorgeous, and this is all a recipe for success. Not to mention all of the amazing performances in the film. When the two leads so re Zegler and Elgort are good, but they aren’t the strongest in the film, yet your movie doesn’t fall apart is a testament to itself. No, it’s the surrounding group of characters from Riff, Bernardo (David Alvarez), Anita (Ariana DeBose) and the lovely Rita Moreno as Valentina, the ensemble cast is terrific. From every single member of the Sharks to the Jets, everyone is bringing their A-Game. For me the real standouts were Mike Faist and Ariana DeBose, they steal every scene they are in, have the most emotional material to work with, and I think they give the best and most memorable performances out of anyone.
It’s funny, not knowing really anything about West Side Story, but when certain songs would come on, whether they have been imprinted into your mind from another time or another pop culture IP taking the song, you instantly know all the classics. I was insanely impressed with a few of the song and dance numbers, especially Gee, Officer Krupke, Maria and America.
Not enough praise can be given to Spielberg here. A fan of musicals his entire life, it’s crazy to think it took him 50 years into his directing career to finally make one. Considering his skill set, he is one of the most versatile directors today and out of the big “blockbuster” ones working today, he is by far the most suited to make one. So thank you Spielberg for doing so, because I can’t say enough good things about it. Either you buy into what this movie is or you don’t. Teenagers are stupid and in love and things fall apart around them, yet they want to run away together even after just one day of knowing each other. But, it always works, that’s why Shakespeare was a genius and his stories will forever be told.
I don’t know how many Oscar nominations this will rack up, it’s hard to decide if these performances are Oscar worthy, but I can see Faist, DeBose and Zelger all getting nominations and rightfully so. This will be around during the awards season, and from top to bottom, this is the best movie of 2021. From a technical perspective, to acting, cinematography, costumes, everything is damn well perfect.
Can’t wait to see it again.
West Side Story 93/100