West Side Story Is A Triumph Of Sights, Sounds, And Spectacle

After a lengthy delay caused by the Pandemic; Director Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of “West Side Story” has arrived. The story is a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and was an award-winning Broadway production as was the 1961 movie adaptation which won Best Picture and multiple Oscars.

The new production does not shake things up radically as it remains a story of two rival gangs in 1950’s New York. The Jets want control over the territory in a neighborhood that is in the process of being redeveloped. Their last remaining rivals are the Sharks and since they are comprised of Puerto Rican members; there is a fierce racial tension added to an already volatile mix.

Into this volatile mix returns Tony (Ansel Elgort); who was the former leader of the Jets and has just returned from a year in prison after nearly beating a rival gang member to death. Tony has vowed to reform himself and he lives and works in a local Drugstore owned by Valentina (Rita Moreno).

Tony’s return is seen as a time of great joy by the Jets as they think they can rid themselves once and for all of the Sharks and become the unchallenged and undisputed rulers of the streets.

In an attempt to quell the violence; a dance is organized where both sides attend in hopes of building a bridge. Although reluctant to attend; Tony does so and catches the eye of Maria (Rachel Zegler) and the two fall heavily for one another.

Naturally being from both sides their relationship does not sit well with the Sharks and the Jets and loyalties are tested as an already tense situation boil over.

The film does not deviate from the source material and does light up the screen with high-energy musical numbers. The abundance of timeless songs remains a huge draw and the performances in the film are solid.

When I first learned of plans to redo the film I wondered why as there was already an amazing film and wondered what else could be brought to audiences. What the film did for me was established not only the timeless nature of the story and the music, but remind me that the issues in the film are still sadly very topical today. I theorized that they could set the film in any city in a modern-day setting and the ugly reality of racism, intolerance, and class struggles would still be highly relevant.

The film is a triumph of sound, sight, and spectacle and easily one of the best films of the year.

5 stars out of 5