Review: ‘West Side Story’ reinvents a classic with modern context

West Side Story

Steven Spielberg is about to turn 75 years old. Since his debut feature in 1971, a full fifty years ago, he has tackled all manner of genre and subject matter, but never a musical. It makes sense then that his trademark skills –an iconic eye for composition and blocking, perfectly deployed single takes, finding the best cast for the story, and impeccable detail at every level– now all feel like he might have been refining specifically to make a musical because his new version of West Side Story makes excellent use of all of them.

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Review: Baby Driver

I sometimes find the music in films almost manipulative. You watch something big and brash, like a Transformers or Avengers, and the aural aim is clear: use the score to generate the required emotional response from the audience. Here’s the hero, BAM BAM BAAAAM. Moment of loss; strings in a minor key. Racing through a jungle, peppering Colombian foliage with bullets? Have some dubstep to pass the time. What stands out for me more these days are films where the music is part of the story, instead of merely underpinning the action. Inception’s slowed-down Non, Je ne regrette rien; Fury Road’s war drums; Tarantino’s torture music. It’s an elevation of the material, a move that takes it to a whole level of blissful enjoyment.

But even the creative musicality of these great films cannot eclipse the groove of Baby Driver. Edgar Wright’s crime story is choreographed like a ballet, where every movement, spin and gunshot is rooted in the music blasting out, and the effect is somewhere approaching pure magic.

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