Monday, October 19, 2015

Crimson Peak - Movie Review

Crimson Peak is a fantasy drama written and directed by Guillermo del Toro who's previous work includes Pan's Labyrinth, Blade 2, and Pacific Rim. The movie features acting performances by Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gorman, Leslie Hope, and Doug Jones.

The Story:
Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) is a young aspiring author living with her father Mr. Carter Cushing in Buffalo, New York during the early 1900's. Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille are travelers from England who have a business proposal for Mr. Carter and, while they are there, the brother becomes enamored with Edith and the novel she is writing. After tragedy strikes, she has nothing left but to go with the Sharpes and begin a new life although, when she arrives, she rediscovers an ability to communicate with lost souls who warn her of a danger hidden within the walls of her new home.

The Review:
This movie is right in Guillermo del Toro's wheelhouse with its dark and Gothic fairy tale qualities. Pan's Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies of all time and is easily the best work he has ever put out. While the acclaimed director attempts to recreate the magic of that effort, I feel like this story was a bit more forced and not nearly lacking in originality. That being said, Crimson Peak is still a fantastic movie that looks absolutely beautiful and features a couple really outstanding performances from Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain. I was a little concerned about Mia Wasikowska as none of her work has really impressed me to this point and her performance doesn't really do anything to change that. It's odd because she is likable and does a good job but she's just sort of there and easily gets lost behind the much stronger efforts of her co stars.

Jessica Chastain, on the other hand, continues to prove why she has quickly become a major star in the business and has also cemented herself as one of my favorite actresses working today. The first movie I remember seeing her in was The Debt although it was her charismatic performance as Celia Foote in The Help that really first caught my attention and she has continued to impress all the way up through this movie. As Lucille, she absolutely owns every bit of screen time she has and brings an undercurrent of confidence and force of will to her character that works perfectly with the energy and debonair quality that Hiddleston brings to his own. The beauty of his performance is how, in one moment, Thomas seems like the ultimate charmer and, in the next, he appears fearful that his whole world might collapse in around him at any moment.

What's interesting is that Universal Pictures is marketing this movie as a horror film first although I didn't really see it that way at all. Sure, it has some of the right elements with the primary set piece being a gigantic haunted house filled with creepy stuff that goes bump in the night but del Toro seemed much more interested in telling a dramatic love story wrapped around the paranormal world which, as it stands, turns out to be even more effective than simply going for ghostly scares and blood splattering chills. There are definitely moments where these elements come into play but they are by no means the focus or a priority for the director although I'm wondering if this will ultimately cause confusion for the audience and eventually take away from the experience. I really hope not as this is a fantastic movie that everyone should enjoy.

The Verdict:
Crimson Peak is definitely one of Guillermo del Toro's better efforts and you can really tell that it's a story he is very passionate about. Sure there are a few logic issues and the story is a bit predictable here and there, but I feel confident that just about anyone will enjoy and appreciate the lush world he has created for this twisted tale of love, greed, and power.

I have not watched this movie in the IMAX format and do not plan to as the images and sounds were post converted digitally rather than having been filmed with IMAX cameras.


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