Saturday, December 2, 2017

Film Review - The Shape of Water

A shadowy government research lab is the setting for Guillermo del Toro return to form film The Shape of Water. del Toro finds himself back in the fantasy sweet spot where his imagination pushes out to the outer edges but he remains colouring within the lines. Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute member of the nighttime laboratory cleaning staff. She is chronically late for her shift absorbed in her world of jazz music and musicals. His friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) is often saving her by punching her time card. Into the lab comes a mysterious project titled The Asset sealed in a human-sized water filled tank destined to be a scientific test subject. His main handler is Strickland (Michael Shannon) a paint by number suited government goon taking credit for spiriting the amphibian from the Amazon jungle to early 1960's Baltimore.

On the nightshift, Eliza finds herself often alone in the lab with the creature. Due to her heightened senses, they bond through sign language, jazz, and boiled egg lunches. She quickly develops a rapport with the Asset becoming his protector along with scientist Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbard) who also sees the monster as an intelligent sentient being. On the other hand, Strickland whose home life is apple pies and white picket fences is more in favour of dissection and corporal punishment with his handy cattle prod at the ready.

del Toro creates a wonderful tapestry for this film with lush blues and greens being the primary colours. Cinematographer Dan Lausten plays a major part in bringing this world to light especially in his attention to angles, light, and shadows particularly in the scenes set in Eliza apartment or in her close friends Giles (a brilliant turn by Richard Jenkins) space who down the hall. His work fits perfectly in tandem with veteran score writer Alexandre Desplat. The pair produce scenes that are more ballet like than a pedantic procession. As Strickland becomes frustrated with the creature and his bosses with him Eliza and her friends feel the urgency to act before the formers extreme ideas are approved then carried out.

The Shape of Water is a fantasy tale at its best. Sally Hawkins is dialed in as the lonely intuitive cleaning woman who makes a real connection with the Amphibian man. The plot is highly believable through an X-files, Area 51 lens helmed by a meticulous director who took three years to craft his Michelangelo's David of amphibian men. It's this level of filmmaking and vision devoted to creating  a fairytale world for that I can truly recommend.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

The Shape of Water | Guillermo del Toro | U.S.A. | 2017 | 123 Minutes.

Tags: Government, Military, Intelligence, Creature, Laboratory, Mute, Sign Language, Musicals, Cleaner, Bathtub, Boiled Eggs. Salt.

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