Movie Review: West Side Story. A Visually Dazzling Affair.


West Side Story is the latest film from acclaimed director Steven Spielberg. The film is an adaptation of the 1957 stage musical of the same name. Released by 20th Century Studios during “Oscar Season” as part of an annual trend of releasing a musical for the Holiday Season.

Starring Ansel Elgort as Tony and Rachel Zegler as Maria, the story is a retelling of the classic Shakespeare story Romeo & Juliet set in 1950s New York City. Instead of two rival families the story follows two rival gangs. The Jets, a gang of American-born boys, and The Sharks, a gang of Puerto Rican immigrants. Tony, a former Jet, and Maria, the sister of the leader of the Sharks, meet at a dance. Tony follows her home and pledges his undying love to her and the two enter into a secret romance.


If you are familiar with Romeo & Juliet then you’ll get the picture of what happens in this story, albeit with a few differences.

The gangs clash in a fight and Tony kills Maria’s brother, Bernardo, in retaliation for killing his friend, Riff. Tony then hides from the law while Chino, Bernardo’s friend, looks to get revenge on Tony by killing him. Maria’s friend, Anita, sends a message to Tony to say that Maria is dead out of anger. Tony then runs in the streets calling Chino to kill him. As Maria arrives to run away with Tony Chico shoots Tony dead. The film ends with members from each gang carrying Tony’s body to the Police station as a symbol that their gang war is over.

The film is of course a musical. It has a lot of greatly sung songs and great choreography. If you enjoy music, especially 1950s jazz, then this is for you.

One major issue though was the controversial creative decision to have almost a 3rd of the dialogue to be in Spanish without any subtitles. Spielberg said this decision was made to “Not give English power over Spanish” which makes little sense. If you don’t know Spanish then you’ll have a hard time understanding parts of the film.

Overall Rating is 7/10. A decently made musical with great visuals and good acting from our leads. What holds it back is that the story is so well known that there are no real surprises. Not to mention the Spanish dialogue with no subtitles for non-Spanish speaking audience members. That shows at the box office with it making only $10.5 Million opening weekend. 

If you want a decent adaptation of the story this is for you. If musicals aren’t your thing then you can give it a skip.

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