out of Five
Running time: 127
Julie Taymor's love-it-or-hate-it musical is hugely ambitious but it works brilliantly, thanks to strong performances, a fantastic script, terrifically integrated songs and Taymor's inspired direction.
What's it all about?
Cleverly using the Beatles' career trajectory as the template for a story about the 1960s, Across the Universe stars Jim Sturgess as Jude, a restless Liverpudlian lad who travels to America, where he meets energetic student Maxwell (Joe Anderson) and his gorgeous sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). Soon the three of them are dropping out of society and sharing a flat in Greenwich Village, along with sexy singer Sadie (Dana Fuchs), guitar guru JoJo (Martin Luther) and lesbian ex-cheerleader Prudence (T.V. Carpio).
With the cast bursting into Beatles songs every few minutes, director Julie Taymor cleverly uses the music to illustrate the action, as Jude, Lucy and Max move from the heady, poppy rush of falling in love to embracing drugs and the drop-out culture. However, the trio's blissful, hippie-ish existence is shattered by the spectre of Vietnam, particularly when Max gets drafted and Lucy joins the protest movement.
On paper, it sounds like a terrible idea, but the film works brilliantly, thanks to Taymor's inspired direction and a superb script by screenwriting legends Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Sturgess and Wood are both terrific in the lead roles and there's strong support from Carpio and Anderson, as well as high profile cameos from the likes of Bono (as Doctor Robert), Eddie Izzard (as Mr Kite) and, gloriously, seven sexy Salma Hayeks dressed in nurse's uniforms as Rita.
The musical numbers are beautifully shot, with the cast actually performing the songs themselves, rather than lip synching. Highlights include Carpio's beautiful rendition of I Wanna Hold Your Hand and a chilling military version of I Want You (She's So Heavy). That said, though it looks amazing, Eddie Izzard's cartoonish version of Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite doesn't quite work and feels out of place.
Across the Universe is a hugely enjoyable, brilliantly directed film that's a must-see for Beatles fans, even if the purists may disagree. Unmissable.