In mythical Verona Beach where gangs rule the streets, the offspring of rival families, Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet (Claire Danes), are ignited by the passion of first forbidden love, with tragic consequences.
'Romeo + Juliet' is simply stupendous. Baz Luhrmann's confronting, exhilarating modern day version of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy blasts onto the screen with images of icons, guns and pop junk. After establishing the two warring sides of Verona Beach, the Montagues and the Capulets, we go to the streets and gang war between Juliet's cousin Tybalt (John Leguizamo) and his offsiders, and Romeo's friend Benvolio (Dash Mihok). But it's Romeo's closest friend Mercutio (Harold Perrineau) who organises Romeo's attendance at the opulent soiree given by Juliet's parents – Gloria (Diane Venora is wonderfully grotesque in this role) and Fulgencio (an amply florid Paul Sorvino). It's where Romeo and Juliet meet, and fall in love instantly and forever.
There are standout performances from every member from of vibrant cast. Miriam Margolyes plays Juliet's nurse as a big-bottomed Italian mamma with lipstick on her teeth. Pete Postlethwaite has an American accent as Father Laurence, the priest who helps the young lovers. But this is Luhrmann's film, the reigns are obviously in his hands, with remarkable help from the key Australian crew: cinematographer Don McAlpine, Jill Bilcock, editor extraordinaire, production designer Catherine Martin, and costume designer Kym Barrett. Luhrmann uses jump cuts, slow-mo, fast-mo and macho, to create this chaotic world, in which the victims are innocence and true love. The soundtrack is a knockout, running the gamut from Mozart to Garbage; the music's rarely discreet while the sound effects are often deliberately inappropriate, emphasising the grotesque and unrealistic nature of Verona Beach and its inhabitants. But Luhrmann never loses sight of the core of the film: the oasis of innocence and romance that is Romeo and Juliet. You'll shed tears in this film at the fate of the lovers, and in sheer gratitude for the wonderful talent on display here. What a knockout.
David: When it began I thought he's going too much, it's gonna be over the top, I'm not gonna like this, but within a few seconds, I was on his wave length. I think it's a remarkable film in so many ways, I mean what a tremendously bold vision, what confidence. A young filmmaker, only his second film, going to America making this extraordinary thing, obviously having complete control over what he did. Wonderful casting, Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes are the most perfect Romeo and Juliet, and the whole thing is exciting, it's vibrant, it's clever, it's brilliant. I think this is a really major achievement.
Margaret: And it's daring, it's one of those films that start, and the tension and the excitement build up, because of course you know you're seeing something absolutely great.