This review is spoiler-free.
After the visually stunning, albeit rather dull affair that was Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro’s stock dipped slightly. It looked great, but it was just missing that Del Toro magic that made some of his earlier work so special.
Going into The Shape Of Water, I was both excited and nervous for what I was about to watch. With Crimson Peak still fresh in my mind, my worries were a little justified. I was hoping to be wowed by all the aspects of Del Toro’s filmmaking and writing that I love. His imagination, the way he creates beautiful stories with complex characters set within a fantastical environment. I am happy, and relieved, to say that all these things are there in abundance.
Simply put, The Shape Of Water is a truly mesmerising film. To say it’s ‘vintage Guillermo’ probably does the film a little disservice. Guillermo del Toro delivers a near career-best movie that truly shows the full power of his genius.
Technically and visually the film is outstanding, and I would expect nothing less from Del Toro and his team. The world was truly immersive and felt so real that you could reach out and touch it. Gorging on the bountiful visuals, expertly executed by Dan Laustsen, was made even sweeter when washed down with Alexandre Desplat’s truly emotive score.
In terms of the cast, you could not have asked for a better ensemble. Sally Hawkins (Elisa) leads the movie with a career-defining performance. Playing a mute character but still able to deliver a truly emotive and captivating performance was unbelievably impressive. Michael Shannon (Colonel Strickland) plays the antagonist role perfectly to counterbalance the light that Hawkins brings to the movie.
Richard Jenkins (Giles) has been around forever, or so it feels, and with his impressive body of work, this is definitely a standout role for him. The same can be said for Octavia Spencer (Zelda) who once again plays an outstanding supporting role. Here you have a closeted gay man and an African-American woman set to the backdrop of 60s Cold War America. The way these things are subtly weaved into the film just helps create those extra layers that make the film so special.
As for ‘the creature’ of the film, long-time Del Toro collaborator Doug Jones returns and puts in his usual majestic performance. His timing and movement have always stood out and here he delivers at the same level as his work in Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth for sure.
The Shape Of Water is a truly phenomenal piece of filmmaking centred around a wonderful story and an extremely talented cast. The film is a cinematic rose, beautiful to look at, but has the ability to cut you without warning and deliver an unexpected shock. Guillermo del Toro is back on top.