Few movie musicals have been as influential as the 1961 rendition of West Side Story and none have ever been honored with as many Oscars. 11 nominations and 10 wins. That milestone achievement was the result of four brilliant theatrical artists consolidating their creative genius at the peak of each of their careers: composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim, choreographer Jerome Robbins, and director Robert Wise. Their film looms large as a monument in American cinema history and for the past 60 years it has stood the test of time.

Its reputation is unassailable but that doesn’t mean it can never be matched.

Of course, anyone daring enough to undertake a fresh interpretation of a classic as widely regarded as perfection better be ready to bring the heat. Steven Spielberg is not only bold enough to do it, he knows how to assemble a team of collaborators to make sure he can pull it off. What he’s done is respectfully preserve everything that felt so right about the original and adjusted whatever in retrospect felt a bit wrong about it.

It took 4 years for the original Broadway musical to become a Hollywood sensation. But those 4 short years from 1957 to 1961 span an extraordinary shift in American society. While that first adaptation feels perfectly of a piece with the mindset of the Kennedy era, on the cusp of the swinging ‘60s, it’s an entirely different sensation to see the setting restored to post-war Manhattan. By the time West Side Story swept the Oscars, youth culture was already headed in the direction of more homogenized movies about troubled teens. In contrast, Spielberg’s re-imagining of this classic seems to align it more closely with the hard-hitting grit of Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and The Wild One (1953).

If the turmoil built into that time period hits us more relentlessly with unexpected depth, thanks to Tony Kushner’s better-developed characters, so does the visceral shock of amped-up physicality. Jerome Robbins original choreography still soars, but Spielberg has enlisted Justin Peck, Resident Choreographer of the New York City Ballet, to reinvigorate the new moves with greater weight and more aggressive thrust. Feet land harder on concrete now, and fists punch with more force on faces and gut. Then when the time inevitably comes, we feel the violence pierce deeper into our hearts, both physically and emotionally.

Gone are the gorgeous expressionistic backdrops of 1961, enhanced now with detailed locations of equally stunning realism. In some ways, Spielberg’s vision looks and feels more like mid-century Manhattan than the version shot on location in ‘61. Thanks to the richly textured production design of Oscar-winner Adam Stockhausen and the ravishing gem-tone costumes of Emmy-winner Paul Tazewell, the wrecking-ball ravaged San Juan Hill neighborhood, just west of where Lincoln Center now stands, is brought vibrantly back to life.

All the same, has any half-demolished slum ever been seen on screen that shimmers with this much vibrant color and energy? Throughout his career, Steven Spielberg has always been a master of cascading camera moves accented with playful soundscapes. Here he has tailfin Oldsmobiles jolt to a halt and a flock of pigeons take flight, all matched precisely with the flurry of streetsmart choreography. Likewise, brakes squeal and wings flutter in the same syncopated rhythms of the soundtrack orchestration.

Watching the rejuvenated West Side Story we’re struck again and again with a blend of warm recognition and thrilling anticipation. We know what’s coming and yet we don’t. It’s not so much the sense we get when we run into a dear friend after many years apart; no, it carries much more emotional impact than that.

It’s as if a meaningful moment we thought was long-forgotten has now been rediscovered. The same way Tony and Maria lock eyes across the gymnasium dance floor, seeing each other for the first time but instantly connecting with one another. Reliving that enchantment feels like being reintroduced to a soulmate we once loved in another lifetime.

When a film like Spielberg’s West Side Story can lift the soul of a masterpiece across generations, it’s more than a revelation. It’s a reincarnation.