Viewed – 12 November 2010 Blu-ray
Making the deep, complex dialogue of a play by legendary playwrite William Shakespeare palatable for a modern audience, was always going to be something of a challenge. Yet with director Baz Luhrmann at the helm, one of the most gifted ‘visual’ directors around, what audiences finally got was something of a style heavy art film with blockbuster ambition. The classic love story follows two powerful rival families, Capulet and Montague, headed by Paul Sorvino and Brian Dennehy respectively, where the son & daughter of each family, namely Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo and Claire Danes’ Juliet meet at a party and fall in love. Yet naturally their love is forbidden and soon leads to bloodshed.
If you are familiar with the play, then you’ll already know how things turn out, and if not, I certainly wont spoil it for you. Lurhamann’s movie is a dazzling assault on the senses, part glorious spectacle, part musical, part thriller. It’s use of contemporary music often striking (Prince’s When Doves Cry a particular highlight) and the beautiful, religious imagery truly breathtaking. Shakespeare’s dialogue is both authentically intact and spoken well, even if at times it is blasted out of the screen, and the alternative universe the movie inhabits is surreal and dreamlike, but never anything less that eye-meltingly gorgeous. Many shots and sequences are worthy of being placed in an art gallery – and the set design is brilliant.
As a piece of entertainment, I will admit to finding the Shakespearian dialogue hard going, but once the love story kicked in, aided by a very believable chemistry between DiCaprio & Danes, I was hooked … leading up to an ending that is surely one of the most memorable ever put on-screen.
The Blu-ray as expected is a treat. Picture-wise this colourful movie is a joy to behold, with good detail, even if at times it seems a little soft. Yet edge enhancement and grain reduction are mostly absent. The 5.1 DTS Master Audio soundtrack is of course excellent, with the impressive soundtrack excelling and dialogue and the various effects are all delivered with plenty of clarity and depth. The extras offer up a packed amount of behind the scenes footage, featurettes on the music as well as archive footage, and a brilliant picture-in-picture mode showcasing how the movie was put together.
Fans of the movie, this is an instant purchase. Anyone who struggled first time around, should still see this, as beyond the complex dialogue lies the beating heart of a true original. A legendary tale brought bang up to date with real class.
Verdict: 4 /5