Tag: the shape of water

REVIEW The Shape Of Water (2018)

Fair warning: considerable spoilers follow – read after watching.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The Shape Of Water is every bit as good as you’ve heard.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, The Shape Of Water follows Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute cleaner at a government facility who meets “The Asset” – an amphibian humanoid (part man, part fish) that the government is studying. Elisa begins to spend time with The Asset, leading the security head Strickland (Michael Shannon) to grow suspicious of her motives.

The story is a lot more involved than that – I’ve not mentioned Elisa’s neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins), the head scientist Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) or her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) – but as this is effectively all I knew going in to the film, I’m going to refrain from saying any more because I want you all to see this on the same terms I did.

The Shape Of Water is a simple story. It is very much del Toro’s play on the traditional boy-meets-girl format – even though, if you know anything of del Toro’s work, it goes in a few surprising directions, very much in keeping with his earlier work. But it is a simple story well told. I would say it is del Toro’s best work since Pan’s Labyrinth. And it might be better than that.

(Funny story: at the end of the film, the lady I was sitting next to leaned over and said “did you enjoy that?” and I said that I did. She said “I had no idea he was such a good director”, and I pointed out Pan’s Labyrinth as a sign that he had this kind of film in him. Then she said “I only know him from The Usual Suspects”, and I said “Sorry?” And she said “yeah, he played the crook with the weird voice.” So I explained that it was Benicio del Toro in The Usual Suspects, not Guillermo del Toro. She apologised, got up from her seat, and left the theatre.)

In addition to being a love story in the traditional sense, The Shape Of Water is a love story to film. It seems – to me – to be very much a love letter to classic Hollywood cinema, both in style and in production design.

The film is infused with clips from old Hollywood titles like 1935’s The Little Colonel and 1941’s That Night In Rio, lovingly viewed by Elisa and her neighbour Giles, both of whom are pursuing the more idealistic version of love you find in the movies, particularly of that time. Indeed, the story that unfolds between Elisa and The Asset is idealistic. Their relationship is almost juvenile in the way that they relate, but it is also innocent and tender and meaningful in a way that is relatable. Credit to Hawkins and Doug Jones, the frequent del Toro collaborator in the fish suit.

Or to put it another way, by half way through the film, I was actively cheering for Elisa to get the fish.

The production design also echoes old Hollywood – or, at least, the version of the 1950s presented in old Hollywood cinema. The few cityscapes we see, the design of the buildings and interior sets, the costume design, right through to Alexandre Desplat’s gorgeous score – this is a film that has been meticulously designed to evoke the era in which it is set.

I especially loved the interior of the clandestine government facility: it looks like the kind of location you’d find in an old sci-fi movie – as if props from The Day The Earth Stood Still or The War Of The Worlds could roll past in the background. Even the underground car park looks like it was formerly the scene of someone meeting a secret agent. The film looks amazing.

None of this is surprising, of course. Guillermo del Toro has an avowed love of film from that era – and he is on record as saying that this film is inspired by his reaction to 1954’s Creature From The Black Lagoon, in which he envisioned the creature ending up with Julie Adams at the end of the film.

(Another funny story: I read that del Toro began work on this film after his concept for a remake of Creature From The Black Lagoon – which would have been part of NBC’s since-scrapped Dark Universe – was rejected. His concept? Tehe creature hooks up with the female lead at the end.)

The Shape Of Water is a stylish film with a stellar cast, one of the most beautiful and unique love stories you’ll see, and a sign that del Toro is operating at an extremely high level. Plus, it’s a pretty phenomenal fantasy/sci-fi movie to boot. I don’t think it will win Best Picture at the forthcoming Academy Awards. But I really want it to.

The Shape Of Water is directed by Guillermo del Toro, written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, and stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, David Hewlett and Doug Jones. It is in cinemas now.

18 films I’m looking forward to in 2018

Now that 2017 is in the bag, let’s take a look forward at some of the films I’m most looking forward to this year …

The Shape Of Water (Jan 18)
Guillermo del Toro is at his best when he tackles a more intimate story like Pan’s Labyrinth or Crimson Peak – or like this period piece starring Sally Hawkins as a maintenance worker who falls for a captive sea creature.

Downsizing (Jan 25)
Alexander Payne directs Matt Damon and Hong Chau in this film about a future where humans can be shrunk to around 15cms tall in the name of conservation. Several outlets called this the best film of 2017. Colour me fascinated.

Cloverfield Movie/God Particle (Feb 1)
The less I know about this going in, the better. All I can tell you is that I love Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Black Panther (Feb 15)
Avengers: Infinity War (Apr 25)
Ant-Man & The Wasp (Jul 5)
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe hits the first of its closing chapters in April when everybody gets together in Avengers: Infinity War – but before that, Black Panther returns for a solo film set in the fictional country of Wakanda. Panther is one of the best comic books in production right now, and I have high hopes for his solo flick. Plus, the Ant-Man sequel in July should be a lot of fun too.

Annihilation (Feb 23; mid-March on Netflix)
Natalie Portman plays a scientist who investigates a mysterious (and likely alien) phenomena after the disappearance and reappearance of her husband. A visually splendiferous film from the team who brought you Ex Machina – and thanks to producer fuckery, we get to see it on Netflix!

Ready Player One (Mar 29)
If you can name all the references in the below trailer for this film – directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the pop culture-heavy sci-fi novel from Ernest Cline – I will give you $50. I feel sure that you can’t.

The New Mutants (Apr 12)
Deadpool 2 (May 31)
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (Nov 1)
The line-up of X-Men films from Fox suddenly got a lot more interesting last month when Disney purchased Fox, with talk that the X-Men would be rolled in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Will these form the final chapters of this franchise? Will Deadpool reference the MCU in any way? Will New Mutants – a horror film – be used as a jumping off point? My guess is that Deadpool will tie-in down the track, and New Mutants will remain a standalone.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 24)
Also suddenly an intriguing proposition given the behind-the-scenes shenanigans, lacklustre response to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and the recent backlash to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Plus, this film is coming out in like five months, and there is no trailer yet? Hmm.

Jurassic World 2: Fallen Kingdom (Jun 21)
You know what? Jurassic World was fine – it was fine! And Chris Pratt is charming. And dinosaurs! DINOSAURS, MAN!

The Incredibles 2 (Jun 28)
Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 (Dec 26)
A sequel to one of the greatest superhero films ever made, and a sequel to one of the most-under-rated pop-culture-heavy animated films of the last few years? I’m in.

The Predator (Aug 2)
Shane Black is one of our best action writers/directors – Lethal Weapon 1 and 2, Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys, to name just a couple – plus he has a link with the original Predator film, which is still one of the best action/sci-fi films ever made. And an intriguing cast: Sterling K Brown, Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Keegan-Michael Key, Alfie Allen … okay, okay, I’m keen.

Mortal Engines (Dec 13)
Peter Jackson produces this dystopian/cyberpunk epic about a world in which entire cities are mounted on wheels and hunt each other across the globe – it sounds insane, but it also sounds (and looks) insanely good.

Aquaman (Dec 26)
No film in 2018 has as much riding on it as Aquaman: following the reception to Justice League, Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Suicide Squad and Man Of Steel, it needs to be a critical and financial hit, or else it risks sinking DC/Warners’ movie plans. Luckily, they’ve proven they can make a good solo flick (Wonder Woman), so there is at least some hope. No trailer yet, but enjoy this GIF:


What films are you looking forward to in 2018?

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