Phantom Of The Opera

aka ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER’S THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver

Director: Joel Schumacher

“Open up your mind, let your fantasies unwind”, those words should be familiar shouldn’t they? 15 years in the making, with over 3.2 billion dollars in theatre box office profits, and now finally after the success of MOULIN ROUGE and CHICAGO, the Phantom is here to compose the music of the night to the cinema going public. The Phantom resides in the Paris opera house in 19 th century France where he has his own personal box to watch the shows. He is paid a salary for his music and in return he causes no harm. The actual identity of the Phantom is known only to one person who works at the opera house, everyone else is convinced that the Phantom is a ghost.

When the resident diva disagrees with the new owners, an upcoming young opera singer is given a chance to sing in a major opera. Her performance leaves the audience amazed by both her beauty and her passionate singing. It turns out that her talent has been nurtured by non other than the Phantom who has fooled her into trusting him by pretending to be an angel of music that she believes is her long dead father. Alas the phantom’s obvious love for this girl gets dealt a harsh blow as she gets engaged to her childhood friend who also happens to be the new patron of the Opera House.

Enraged by her attraction to this young man the Phantom plots his vengeance.

MOULIN ROUGE and CHICAGO opened doors for the musical to slowly make a comeback but unlike those films this film is dark, moody and it takes itself very seriously. In other words you could say that this is an adult musical, very mature and also quite sombre. The direction from Joel Schumacher based on a screenplay by Andrew Lloyd Webber is very good. The film captures the essence of the play but still manages to work as a film and this is accomplished by a combination of solid performances, beautiful costumes, wondrous music and sufficiently dark cinematography.

The Phantom is played by my own personal choice for the next James Bond, Gerard Butler fresh from TIMELINE, TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE and soon to be seen in BEOWULF & GRENDEL. It is not an easy role to play as his character has to be both believably evil but still capable of love and being loved. Gerard Butler pulls it off wonderfully his phantom is smooth, menacing yet still very emphatic and he also does all his own singing.

Emmy Rossum is fantastic here, she handles the role of the vulnerable girl who finds herself drawn to this evil presence out of a mixture of sorrow and true feelings making her see in the phantom a sense of good that no one else can. Supporting acts from Miranda Richardson, Simon Callow, Ciaran Hinds and Patrick Wilson all complement this remarkable film. The press screening I went to had a full round of applause from the audience and quite frankly it was well worth it. If you liked EVITA directed by Alan Parker you should equally love this as they share the same tone.

With the right frame of mind, an appreciation for music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and for some good old fashioned, bittersweet romance this film ought to stir and waken your imagination.

4 out of 6 stars

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