Although it is Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood who get top billing in West Side Story, simply watching the film, one can't help but be entranced by both Chakiris and Rita Moreno, both of whom took home Oscars for their parts. Moreno plays Anita and sings "America," "Quintet," and "A Boy Like That." Wood is certainly enthralling as Maria, but when Moreno sings and dances it is impossible to look away.
At 153 minutes, West Side Story isn't exactly a short film, but it plays far shorter than that. The tale may never get terribly more deep than the love story between Tony and Maria (love beyond reason at first sight) and the hatred between the Sharks and Jets (hatred for simply living in the same neighborhood), but it doesn't particularly matter. There is enough explanation, emotion, and expressiveness in each and every song sung, that while the spoken words may not convey a lot of depth, every other piece of the film more than makes up for that. From start to finish, first song to last song, West Side Story is a great movie.
The new Blu-ray release of the film looks wonderful. The colors, level of detail, and cleanness of the print indicate the care that was took with the restoration. The heat of the summer comes through in every scene, as does the tension on the faces of the characters. Textures on clothes, in backgrounds, and all around are readily apparent, and black levels are very good. Unfortunately, there is also a noticeable flicker for much of the film. While the sound is crystal clear and the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix puts the viewer in the center of this beautiful musical, there does appear to be something of a problem with the levels. If one sets up the volume so that average spoken dialogue plays at a appropriate volume, loud musical numbers blare and startle while words in soft ones are almost wholly inaudible. It may be crisp, it may be clean, and it may be clear, but it is not perfect.