The second World War has ended but in its place the Cold War rages on. America and Russia are strategically competing against each other in almost every facet and there’s always the concern a Russian spy is hiding in plain sight. A mysterious sea creature is brought to an American research facility for examination/testing and with it a new head of security to ensure the “asset” is appropriately handled. So, does “The Shape of Water” deliver on spy meets romance meets monster movie or should we pour this film into the bowl and flush? Let’s dive in and take a look in this review.
Guillermo del Toro steps back into the writing and directing chair to deliver a story that’s layered, complex, nuanced and believable. For the unique and stylized world this film exists in, the fact that Guillermo was able to make this story (as well as the characters) as real as it feels speaks to the incredible talent that he possesses. It also shows us the magnificent ability he has to invoke the realest sense of emotion from his actors.
The basic premise is a sea creature is found and brought to a research facility for examination and testing. While in confinement, two of the janitorial staff are made aware of its presence and one of them, Elisa (played by Sally Hawkins) finds this creature more fascinating than others. The new head of security and one scientist are constantly at odds with regard on how to properly handle the monster; meanwhile, a five star general needs to ensure that the asset does not fall into Russian hands. The story continues to build until the very final scene of the film where all loose ends are tied up and we’re shown that this movie was made with incredible care.
The story slowly reveals layer after layer as we get to know all the characters. We find out there’s more to each individual than initially shown as conversation after conversation leads us further into the relationship we’re building with these individuals, until the finale, when we fall back into our theater seats, exhausted, and pleased, with how well this film was written. Each character stands apart with a personality so unique it’s difficult to thumb who exactly is the absolute villain in this movie. This is not to suggest that we don’t get hints and clues to who the antagonist is; however, the writing is done so brilliantly that upon conclusion the plot and themes can be dissected into different camps of thought which all could be correct if you can argue your views as well as this film told its story.
The creature, or asset, did resemble the infamous “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Its origin in this film is almost identical to the origin in the old black and white monster movie from 1954. Much to my surprise, there’s a fresh new approach to the creature I am familiar with and that was just another slice of enjoyment for me as I watched this creature begin as a mysterious monster and develop into something so much more. Both the creature and Elisa could not speak and the amount of emotional energy they both expel on screen was remarkable. Elisa (Sally Hawkins) did a phenomenal job in her role as she expressed the full spectrum of being alive for us on the big screen. Her intimate moments, her fears, her joy, her friendship, her work ethic, her anger and indignation. She delivers it all beautifully and I’m happy to report every other main character does the same.
“The Shape of Water” is in theaters now! I’m definitely recommending a big screen viewing of this incredibly artistic story about a monster and the way its able to bring out the best (and arguably the worst) in those it comes into direct contact with. There are a few moments that might make your head turn sideways because, again, this film deals with a sea monster and humanity. But those moments are delivered in a manner that’s understandable because of how much we understand the humans involved in each scene. “The Shape of Water” is in your local theater now. Definitely get out of your house and Go. See. This. Film!