The Greatest Showman is a magical musical full of wonder, fun, and excitement capped off with an astounding cast, beautiful sense of style, and incredible music. The film is written by Bill Condon and Jenny Bicks and marks the directorial debut for Michael Gracey who has some prior experience in the visual effects department. The film is inspired by the story of P.T. Barnum (played here by Hugh Jackman) who grew from nothing to become a renowned success and gave life to show business. I loved almost every moment of this movie, the musical numbers are perfectly integrated, it has a tonne of heart and emotion, the performances across the board are incredible, and it knows when to have fun and when to focus on the real story. The focus of this film is clear from the get-go and it never loses it, pacing is flawless save for one sequence and the plot is thoroughly enjoyable and wholly engaging throughout.
I have to start with the performances because there is not a single performance in here that is anywhere short of damn-right fantastic. Hugh Jackman is of course the standout performer as he is in his element here, his charisma leaps off the screen in every scene and he makes a great lead role. Then you have Zac Efron who is pulling out his inner High School Musical and gives another great performance. He shares some great on-screen chemistry with Zendaya who I mean… come one…. undeniably is gorgeous, great, and brings a lot of emotional weight to the film. I couldn’t wait to see everything in this movie and Zendaya…. especially Zendaya. Michelle Williams and Rebecca Ferguson are very talented and it shows here as they too are really good in their limited roles. The cast of Barnum’s show are also all great for the limited lines they do have, especially Keala Settle who has a very powerful voice and it pays off. I mean, even Austyn Johnson and Cameron Seely; the two young actresses who play Barnum’s daughters are damn great and should be in more things from now on.
It isn’t a musical without some big musical numbers and when they hit they really are glorious. Not only is the soundtrack brilliant but the dance numbers themselves from those focusing on only one or two people to the larger ensemble pieces are so much damn fun to watch. The choreography is fast, mesmerising and impressively executed in every moment. It’s busy but never too busy to where you can’t follow every movement with ease. The sense of style these scenes adopt is absolutely stunning, the way the backdrops and surrounding environment feels very much a part of the musical number I adored and it all adds to the experience of these scenes. But this great sense of style isn’t limited to these sequences, it is carried throughout the film and ties everything together in the 1800’s time period. The cinematography is rich with colour, beautiful lighting, and a great sense of style with a few moments looking like something you might find in a Wes Anderson film. The use of long takes in some of these dance numbers helps build up the spectacle of the scene successfully.
So in the end I loved almost every minute of this movie and it’s my favourite musical of the year 2017. The only real issue I have with the film is minor and to do with the pacing. The pacing throughout is great, it does take a bit of dip at one point in the film where a certain famous figure makes a brief and admittedly quite odd appearance. But this slight lull is short-lived and it gets back to the greatness rather quickly. The performances from everyone involved are amazing and they all share a rich chemistry that really shows and ups my enjoyment level a lot. If you are a fan of musicals this is a must-see as it’s very original, unique, and loads of unhindered fun.
Also I need to give a shoutout the bartender in the film during a Zac Efron musical number who may be the most under-appreciated character here. His sudden dedicated contribution to the events going on around him should not be overlooked.