Thomas Clarke’s review published on Letterboxd:
Collaborations in Hollywood occur all the time, with directors having faith in casting the same actor repeatedly. One of the most known is that of Director Tim Burton and Actor Johnny Depp. Sweeney Todd is the sixth film that has the joint work of Burton and Depp, after they first worked together on the 1990 film 'Edward Scissorhands'. This shows that the gambled selection of Depp as the lead in this movie, is a decision that is based on eighteen years of respect for one another.
Johnny Depp is a highly professional character actor, adapting to any role that he is asked to portray. Not afraid of defining his characters through make up, voice, or portrayal Depp is a person that never seems to turn a challenging role. Not known for his singing, Depp was an odd decision for the role, but after witnessing the film, it is possible to believe the gamble to have payed off. His voice talent, although not perfect, fits the movie perfectly and his gravelly tone adds to the overall dark feeling that this film has. Through a period of time completing a singing course, Depp has progressed his talents to the point that never does his singing voice annoy or draw attention to itself within the narrative. It just fit completely.
With Johnny Depp's performance being perfect for this movie, the attention draws to the support cast. Again Burton has chosen to pick both established actors and uprising stars. His off screen wife, Helena Bonham Carter, portrays the pie maker Mrs Lovett. The roles fits Bonham Carters acting style, it is an obvious casting choice for the director. With also having a good working relationship with Depp, her performance is able to play of his and vice versa. Through this they allow there respective roles to become deeper and seem more realistic. Neither is acted in a way that leads to the belief that they are callous murderers, more that they have reasons behind their actions. With regards both of these casting choices, it outlines the benefits to using the same actors on numerous occasions.
With the other main cast supporting these two roles, the casting directors had to select actors that would only add to their performance. Alan Rickman portrays the main antagonist, Judge Turpin, in the same vain as the other villains he has portrayed in the past. Showing his talents as an actor, Rickman plays this role exactly as it is needed. Always the opposite to Todd, Turpin's actions always seem evil and unprovoked. The scene this is most clear in is that of the judgement on an 11 year old boy who is to be hung for a petty crime. Timothy Spall also plays the role of the Beadle in an similar way. Always following orders form Turpin, the portrayal shows audiences what seems like enjoyment for his actions. Jamie Campbell Bower, an unknown actor during the making of this film, plays the lovestruck Anthony with such innocence and purity. This role is the sole way that this movie portrays goodness in people. With a crop of characters who are all foul in many ways, and a story based on betrayal, revenge and murder, it is nice to have a character that the audience can relate too. With small turns for; Sacha Baron Cohen, Laura Michelle Kelly and Jayne Wisener, rounding out the principle cast. It is clear that Burton and his casting directors have been diligent in all casting decisions. No one seems unsuitable for the roles that they play, in regards Sacha Baron Cohen's rival barber Pirelli the role is seemed to be completely suitable for the established actor but also will surprise many audience members in what he achieves within it.
Tim burton is also know for high gothic aesthetics to his productions. This movie is no different. The use of making the London they inhabit into a gothic central location, was a bold decision. Always however, does it feel in perfect context to the narrative. It is needed both for the qualities that the styling brings but also as it adapts a perfect way of showcasing the mind of the title character. This is most clear in the few flash back scenes where the London is bright and vibrant, this being the stage where Todd is having fulfillment from his life. This changes to an almost empty and bleak london which seems to get worse as the title character ventures into becoming more obsessed with the sole goal of gaining revenge on all the mistreatment that he has encountered. This is an excellent way of showing feelings, with subtle changes as the outline of the narrative is allowed to develop more.
Being a musical, a lot of the film's basis relies on the soundtrack used. Taken straight from the stage production that has run for many years, only slight adaptations allow it to work better on screen. The way that Burton has asked the lyrics to be sung allows the songs to become more of a natural transition on film. A lot of musical movies use songs to highlight key points, and as such break off from the plot line in order to have them sung. Within this movie this is not the case. the decision to allow the songs to be sung in such a way that it makes the actors seem to be singing a script, which allows the film to run more smoothly. With 90% of the movie being shown through the medium of song, it is with great care and professionalism that they all sound great and really add to the film.
With the joint genre of this film being both musical and horror, many will not understand how this could possibly work. Just know that it does. The director and production crew taking this into effect with the decisions regarding this movie, have adapted it for the better.The transitions from script work into songs are never forceful, after a while you will probably not even realise that they are there. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, having the most amount of songs to sing, are great when they sing, and as said before, they fit the feel of the movie exactly.
Overall this movie is one of the best films that have shared the collaboration between Depp and Burton. This may not be to everyone's taste, but those who dislike either genre should not be put off by Sweeney Todd's genres.. It is a movie that should be watched, even if only to show how mixing these two can be achieved. The performance from Depp showcases his talents, adding singing to that long list. Proving that Hollywood collaborations can and do work, Burton has once again shown his faith in Depp, a faith that is never faltered within this movie.