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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12
Cast
Claire Danes
John Leguizamo
Pete Postlethwaite
Leonardo DiCaprio.
Directors
Baz Luhrmann.
Screenwriters
William Shakespeare
Craig Pearce
Baz Luhrmann.
Running Time
120 minutes

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William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet
Baz Luhrmann's reinvention of the definitive love story


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Plot
Shakespeare's famous play is updated to the hip modern suburb of Verona still retaining its original dialogue.


Review
A bare screen with a lone TV set in the middle. A brave opening for a movie. But this is a brave movie. The TV crackles into life and Shakespeare's introduction to Romeo And Juliet is recited as a modern day news broadcast. As the MTV-style editing kicks into gear, Baz Luhrmann takes the audience on a unique ride through one of the Bard's best-known texts, illuminating the story, occasionally subjugating the language but always delivering a vision that is bold, brassy, hugely inventive and accessible and, in a strange way, just right.

It was big a leap from an antipodean dance hall with sequins to Shakespeare with guns, but one he appears more than accomplished enough to turn into something special. Just as West Side Story appropriated the source material to make the tale of young, tragic love contemporary in the early 60s, Luhrmann has contextualised the original text in the modern visual idiom. In short, Verona becomes Verona Beach, dude, and while a rapier is still a weapon, it's now the brand name of a particularly popular handgun.

This is a world in which Prince songs have become hymns sung by angelic choirs. To back up this modern reinterpretation, the director relies on two leads who regularly appropriate the epithets Best Actor/Actress Of His/Her Generation, and on the evidence here, these are titles most deserved.

Di Caprio brings his usual instinctive grace and gut-wrenching emotion to Romeo, a teenager beset by a first love doomed by a war between families, the Montagues and the Capulets, here recast as battling corporate bodies.

Meanwhile, anyone who saw Danes on TV's short-lived show My So-Called Life knew that here was a special talent. Her Juliet is young, yearning and genuinely moving, as close to a star-making performance as it is possible to get.


Verdict
Shakespeare's name fills up the title, but this is clearly Luhrmann's vision and it's a genuinely inventive one. Yes, at the end of the day you can say that it's just a gimmick designed to sell the Bard to the masses. But a bloody good gimmick all the same.


Reviewed by Bob McCabe


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet
Empire Star Rating

Nice ! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by elimonator at 14:05, 05 May 2010 | Report This Post


fantastic

Was inspired by this being on tv to finally get round to putting my two cents in. I adore Shakespeare so was predisposed to at least give a chance when this first came round in the cinemas. Fortunately it more than lived up to my expectations. It is a sumptious riot of colours and emotions. The language is brought to life, even though they did make some creative changes. What really sells this for me is the ending though. Maybe it has something to do with the possibilities of editing in movie... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fee_kh at 14:31, 20 June 2009 | Report This Post


Shakespeare is cool

I love everything about this film - the modern setting, the great acting, cultural references, soundtrack, edge-of-seat tension, tragic romance. Not every director could make it work. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by HeavenChild at 21:29, 22 November 2008 | Report This Post


Love At First Site?

Romeo and Juliet, a gripping, breath-taking film that will fill you with tears, it’s a action-packed, romantic-tragedy that will fasten you to your seats. Directed by Baz Luhrmann (directed Moulin Rouge), Romeo and Juliet is an outstanding modernised version of Shakespeare’s play. Romeo Montague played the one and only Leonardo DiCaprio (who as also starred in Titanic and The Beach) and Juliet Capulet played by Claire Danes (who as also starred in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machin... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by elah at 20:29, 06 July 2008 | Report This Post


Studied it in english, and found it too, too too weird for my taste, and I could have sworn at the start that Baz Lurman was having a go at the Spagetti Westerns, not cool. But Leo DiCaprio was perfectly cast as Romeo (Literatures biggest Pansy) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dgribble at 18:49, 26 February 2008 | Report This Post


Studied it in english, and found it too, too too weird for my taste, and I could have sworn at the start that Baz Lurman was having a go at the Spagetti Westerns, not cool. But Leo DiCaprio was perfectly cast as Romeo (Literatures biggest Pansy) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dgribble at 18:49, 26 February 2008 | Report This Post


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