Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Shape of Water - Movie Review

The Movie: The Shape of Water

The Director: Guillermo Del Toro

The Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones, David Hewlett, Nick Searcy, Stewart Arnott, Nigel Bennett

The Story: In a 1960s research facility, a mute janitor forms a relationship with an aquatic creature.

The Review:
After this movie had spent a good part of the year receiving rave reviews from critics and raking in awards at film festivals, I had become very hopeful of seeing something of the same caliber as Guillermo Del Toro's classic Pan's Labyrinth which is one of my all time favorite movies.


That being said, The Shape of Water is a very well crafted story that is filled with cinematic homage and is quite frankly one of the most beautiful things I have seen on screen this year. Del Toro has an eye for detail that is impeccable and it is quite impressive how he is able to bring his ideas to life. What held it back a bit for me is the story which is a pretty basic tale, but I feel like that's intentional so you can focus more on the characters and performances.

Using classic Hollywood tricks and creating visually stunning images with practical effects (opening sequence is amazingly not CGI) is something he does so well and the team of artists and actors he has assembled for this film are truly top notch. The colors, the lighting, the shading, the textures, and everything else in between is all carefully woven together to create layers upon layers of mood, theme, and fairy tale extravagance. There are fantasy elements that run throughout the story and each one stands in stark contrast to the harsh realities of war, technology, and the pitfalls of humanity.

Normally, I'm not a huge fan of Michael Shannon although, in this film, he is just fantastic and this is probably my favorite of any of his performances. He plays perfectly as the flag waving villain intent on victory at any cost. Playing polar opposite to this is Sally Hawkins who completely bares herself both literally and emotionally throughout the film. Without saying a word, she says everything her character needs to and so much more. What she conveys on screen with a simple gesture or facial expression is more than most could ever come close to with spoken words.

Yes those two were great, but I feel like Richard Jenkins was even better and his performance would also be my favorite of anything he has ever done. There is so much going on with his character that you can't help but feel the emotions of everything he goes through over the course of the story. His arc is minor in comparison to the two primary roles, but thanks to what Jenkins puts into the character, it is no less affecting or satisfying to watch and his reluctant hero in so many ways is essential to the story from start to finish.

The Verdict:
The Shape of Water is a beautiful and stunning work of art and would be near the top of Guillermo Del Toro's impressive list of creations. After getting over an initial bit of emotional letdown, I let the movie sink in and started to fall in love with it more and more. This is definitely a movie you don't want to miss.

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