Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Shape of Water

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Guillermo del Toro has been one of the most fantastical filmmakers of his generation. He has created many amazing dark fantasies such as The Devil's Backbone & Pan's Labyrinth, which I consider to be his finest work. He perfectly mixes beauty with the macabre.

The Shape of Water, from the first moment I saw the trailer, was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. It looked so intriguing & wondrous. At that point, I was hooked. As more trailers came out, I was even more hooked.

And then I saw it. And I was completely awestruck at the film. Set in 1962 Baltimore, the film follows Elisa Esposito (played by Sally Hawkins), a night shift janitor at the Occam Aerospace Research Center. Elisa was rendered mute by a neck injury she suffered as an infant, & was orphaned, learning to communicate through American Sign Language. She lives a monotonous life, going through the same routine every day. She takes solace in the company of her 2 friends: Giles (played by Richard Jenkins), her middle-aged next-door neighbor who is a closeted gay man & an artist; & Zelda Fuller (played by Octavia Spencer), her African-American co-worker & interpreter at the facility.

One day, the facility receives a tank containing an Amphibian Man (played by Doug Jones) that has been transported from South America by the bigoted & cruel Col. Richard Strickland (played by Michael Shannon). The government is looking into the Amphibian Man for space travel improvements, in order to get a leg up past the Russians. Also joining in with the study is scientist Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (played by Michael Stuhlbarg). While fighting with Strickland, the Amphibian Man bites off 2 of Strickland's fingers, leading Elisa to clean up the bloody mess & encounter the Amphibian Man.

Elisa is fascinated with the Amphibian Man. She begins to spend time with him, feeding him hardboiled eggs, playing music for him & communicating with him through sign language, eventually befriending one another.

Elisa plans to break the Amphibian Man out of the facility, fearing his eventual dissection, vivisection & euthanization. Giles, Zelda & Dr. Hoffstetler, although reluctantly at first, decide to team up with her to break him out. But Strickland will stop at nothing to get the Amphibian Man back, & Dr. Hoffstetler has a secret of his own.

The cast is phenomenal. Sally Hawkins's performance is easily the best of her career & also the best silent performance since Holly Hunter's Oscar-winning performance in 1993's The Piano. Hawkins evokes so much emotion without a single word.

Michael Shannon is also outstanding. Shannon, one of the greatest actors of our age, is absolutely despicable & managed to absolutely terrify me at every moment he's on the screen.

Richard Jenkins is also phenomenal. Jenkins, one of the most underrated actors of all time, gives arguably the most human performance of the film. He has so much conflict inside him & he portrays that so beautifully.

Doug Jones is also a standout. Jones, who has been a go-to guy for del Toro for 20 years now, also evokes so many emotions without a single word & manages to feel human, although he may not look human.

Michael Stuhlbarg is also excellent. Stuhlbarg, who is finally getting some attention after being very underrated for several years, portrays the conflicts inside himself perfectly as well.

And Octavia Spencer is also amazing. Spencer easily gives one of her best performances, serving as an absolute scene-stealer, proving that she needs more lead roles.

Guillermo del Toro's direction is excellent. del Toro has directed his best film yet. His knack for building such intricate fantasy world has never been at a higher caliber as it is here.

The screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor is amazing. The plot is so original, definitely more original than most films out there today. The dialogue & characters are also human & just as interesting as the plot.

Dan Laustsen's cinematography is gorgeous. Laustsen uses a green motif throughout the film, & he seems to have found every, if not close to every, shade of green there is. And it looks so beautiful.

Sidney Wolinsky's editing is excellent. Wolinsky considered this to be a "tall order to pull off" when it came to editing. Well, he most certainly pulled it off, as the editing looks nearly seamless, as the film has not a single bad cut & knows where it's going.

The production design by Paul D. Austerberry is amazing. The sets scream early 1960s, & they look so gorgeous, & they're even more enhanced by the fantastical elements of the film.

The costume design by Luis Sequeira is astounding. The costumes are period-accurate, & are also enhanced by the fantastical elements.

The makeup & hairstyling is outstanding. The makeup & hairstyling is period-accurate, & the makeup for the Amphibian Man is just flawless. It's an absolute shame this didn't make the shortlist for the Oscar for Best Makeup & Hairstyling.

The sound design is incredible. The sounds of the Amphibian Man are especially incredible, as are the sounds of the facility.

Alexandre Desplat's original score is beautiful. The score has an underwater feel to it that sounds so beautiful & heartwarming.

And the visual effects are stunning. The effects of the Amphibian Man are done so well that they don't look computer generated. They look astonishingly real.

This is one of the 3 best films of the year. The performances are top notch, the direction is outstanding, the music is beautiful, & the visuals are an absolutely gorgeous sight to see.

The Shape of Water was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Thursday, December 21, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 123 minutes, & it is rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence & language.

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