Review - 'The Shape of Water'
Every time a new Guillermo Del Toro film is announced I perk up. Even with Del Toro's lesser endeavors (Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak), you are still guaranteed a certain level of quality and inventiveness not seen in many other movies out there. Guillermo Del Toro has won my prolonged loyalty based upon some of the near-perfect gems he's directed in the past, particularly Pan's Labyrinth, The Devil's Backbone and his Hellboy films. The Shape of Water, without a doubt, joins that elite club.
Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water tells the story of a mute woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) who develops a connection with a fish-like man (Doug Jones) in the secret government facility in which she is employed as a custodian. When experiments on the fish-man become increasingly violent and his life is threatened, Elisa takes matters into her own hands and makes a risky attempt to extracate him.
The Shape of Water is a weird and wonderful film in all of the right ways. This is a production that only Guillermo Del Toro could have directed because it takes an absolute mastermind to blend all of the elements of this film into one cohesive whole. The Shape of Water is somehow equal parts romance, drama, horror, action, musical and comedy and by some sort of miracle, it all works together in harmony. Due to the unique tone and structure of the film I never knew what to expect from the plot, there is nothing predictable about The Shape of Water and I was constantly kept on my toes. You would also think that with so many seemingly incongruous parts that the film would jump the shark within the first fifteen minutes, but somehow all of these miss-matching pieces fit together perfectly.
On top of this, The Shape of Water also has heart and a profound message about equality at its center that never comes off as preachy. The film displays characters from all walks of life working together to evade and overcome a common enemy. It's so inspiring to see such current issues addressed in a period fantasy film in a way that is somehow both subtle and obvious and never detracts from the story that is being told.
Sally Hawkins turns in a career-defining performance as the mute custodian, Elisa Esposito. I love it when actors are able to convey emotion through non-verbal expression, and Hawkins does that here in spades. Despite not having an audible voice, she could be heard as loudly, if not louder, than any of the other characters in the film. Michael Shannon is also great here as Colonel Richard Strickland, even if he plays a bit of a riff on some of the other characters he's played in the past, namely Nelson from HBO's Boardwalk Empire. I also absolutely loved Richard Jenkins who plays Giles, a closeted gay man who despite his personal struggles, decides to accompany and help Elisa at any cost. His character is quick-witted but also clumsy and awkward, which Jenkins is able to portray with just the right about of flair. The final stand-out here is of course Doug Jones; the long-time collaborator of Del Toro's and the man who pretty much portrays all of Del Toro's most prominent creature creations. Here he plays the fish-man, and though his character doesn't speak, he is still able to convey emotions through movements and actions in a way that seems so natural.
On top of everything, The Shape of Water also excels on a aesthetic level. The visuals here are stunning. Del Toro and the effects team have managed to pull off so much with what little they were given. The film is said to have cost under $20 million, but if I'm being honest, it looks much closer to $50-60 million. The costume Doug Jones is wearing is one of the best, most convincing looking practical creature designs I've seen since, well, Pan's Labyrinth or Game of Thrones. Finally, the score by Alexandre Desplat is beautiful and classic with a dash of weird... Which hardly coincidentally sums up this movie.
Guillermo Del Toro is in top-form with The Shape of Water, a movie that blends many different genres seamlessly and displays its heart clearly on its sleeve. The Shape of Water is another masterpiece from Guillermo Del Toro, and a film that spoke to me on many different levels.