Remakes are almost always a hard feat to pull off, but when you’re remaking something as timeless and truly classic as West Side Story, you’ll be met with a hell of a lot of expectations before the work is even released. However, if there was anyone to ever tell the story again in a proper way, it would without a doubt be Steven Spielberg. The man has made a film from just about every genre you could imagine, but has somehow never made a musical before. And from the moment that West Side Story kicks off, you can tell how badly he’s wanted to and how much the source material means to him.
The film follows almost the same exact plot of the original – Tony falls in love with Maria, which causes a lot of conflict that sets the currents of the movie to take off. And it’s easy for these elements, no matter how timeless they feel, to be bogged down by the legacy of it all. But Steven Spielberg not only manages to make all of these plot elements feel fresh, but also innovative and somehow timely despite it taking place so long ago.
The film also perfectly captures the aesthetic of a classic film, from the grain in the film to the color grading that just feels… authentic. But it also matches that aesthetic with a genuine energy and sense of modernization that surprised me quite a bit. This movie is a ton of fun and genuinely exhilarating to watch at points due to how mesmerizing the dance choreography is, how vibrant the colors are, and how infectious it is to hear these classical songs played with a new cast and sense of urgency and direction.
There are also a ton of amazing performances here, one of which is namely newcomer Rachel Zegler who plays Maria. It’s a true ensemble, but it’s surreal to see a true A Star is Born moment play out as you watch her acting debut. From the get-go, the film grabs hold of you with an incredible cast and just about the finest director to ever live and delivers a film that is… dare I say it, as good as the original?