Why hasn’t Joe Wright made a musical before now? One of Wright’s defining features as a director has been his lush period production design. He has a flair for the dramatic and his punchy immediate shots in films like Atonement and Pride & Prejudice made him instantly beloved. Cyrano is more of the same in that regard, filmed with all the grandiosity one desires in a cinema musical.
A famed play and oft-adapted, one would hope yet another adaptation would do something to distinguish itself. This film adds the addition of being a musical, based on an initial stage musical adaptation. And this certainly adds to the affair, with music done by The National. The tracks are a mix, with some instantly catchy and memorable such as “Someone To Say” and “Overcome.” Others however do little to distinguish themselves. It also doesn’t help that the singing ability of the cast is fairly hit or miss, with Peter Dinklage reduced more to talk-singing.
Still, while the musical add-on is a mixed bag from a music standpoint, the remaining elements of this adaptation all shine. Wright’s eye for huge set-pieces is a great boon, with large choregraphed dance scenes and striking use of light and color throughout the film. Whether it’s a song set as soldiers plunge into a suicide mission, as fog arises around them, or an entire battalion set among the training yards in bright yellows and reds, Cyrano continually dazzles and catches the eye.
And despite his weaker singing, Peter Dinklage’s acting is on-point. His utmost command of even small facial expressions to convey deep emotion impressed us throughout his run on Game of Thrones and impresses here as well. He conveys all the bitter intelligence and deep unrequited love of Cyrano with pure sincerity adding to the tragic element of the story as he realizes the delusions and pride he held that prevented him from his life’s greatest joy. This is a film that treats love with the epic element that the greatest love tales do so well.
Cyrano is not ground-breaking or a stunning addition to Wright’s work. But it proves that he needs to step into the musical game again. Perhaps with a unique tale that will truly let him be free. Still, as an adaptation, Cyrano is a great one and pure delight to the senses throughout.