Monday, January 29, 2018

Movie Review: The Shape of Water

Guillermo Del Toro tells another imaginative fairy tale with entrancing monsters and beautiful direction. The story is set in the 1950s about Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) who is a mute that works at a secret government facility cleaning up after scientists. She starts every morning with a similar routine where she boils eggs and masturbates in the bathtub. She socializes with her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) who is an artist. He draws pictures and watches television while he has a crush on a nearby pie salesman. Elisa works with Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer) who understands Elisa sign language and uses her silence to complain about her husband. One day they are brought into a special room where Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) has brought an amphibian man (Doug Jones). 

Elisa cannot contain her curiosity and continues to visit the creature learning that it also enjoys the eggs she brings for lunch. A scientist Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) studies the creature but does not believe that anything important can be discerned from dissecting the creature. He argues with Strickland about what to do but hides the fact that he is a Russian spy. Strickland confronts the two janitorial women in the bathroom showing how he urinates without using his hands. Strickland seems to become obsessed with Elisa and her inability to speak. General Frank Hoyt (Nick Searcy) orders Strickland to vivisect the creature to study it and achieve more knowledge than the Russians in the space race.

Dr. Hoffstetler goes to his handlers to tell them about the plan and they order him to kill the creature before the Americans can study it despite his misgivings. He receives a deceive to kill the power in the whole facility to use when he kills the creature. Elisa witnesses the cruel treatment Strickland deliver to the amphibian man and learns of the plan to vivisect the creature. She plans to take him begging Giles to help him. Giles reluctantly agrees after his artwork for an advertisement is rejected. Elisa manages to get the fish creature into a laundry cart as Zelda figures out that something is up with her coworker. She tries to talk Elisa out of it just as Giles is being confronted by a security guard. Dr. Hoffstetler discovers Elisa in the middle of the act and helps her escape by drugging the security guard and knocking out the power. 

Giles escapes with Elisa and the amphibian man in the back of the van, smashing into Strickland's car and being shot at on the way out. Strickland does not know who took the amphibian man but he suspects Dr. Hoffstetler and sets Fleming (David Hewlett) to watch him. Elisa brings the amphibian man back to her apartment and puts him in the bathtub with salt and some material that Hoffstetler gave her. She comes up with a plan to release him into the canal once the waters are high enough and floods her bathroom to make love with the amphibian man. Giles has to open the door after the manager of the movie theater below them complains about dripping from the ceiling. Strickland traces Hoffstetler and confronts him learning that it was Elisa and Zelda. He goes to Zelda's apartment and demands to know where Elisa leaves eventually learning it from her scared husband. After an inexplicable musical sequence, Elisa takes the amphibian man to the canal with Giles. They are all shot multiple times but it was revealed earlier that the amphibian can heal people and it shows that Elisa's cuts on the side of her throat were actually gills.

The Shape of Water looks to be the frontrunner for the Academy Award for Best Picture and it would be a deserving winner even if there were other movies I enjoyed more from last year. The acting is stellar with Michael Shannon stealing the show followed closely by Sally Hawkins. Octavia Spencer should get better roles than the hired help but still delivers. Guillermo Del Toro's directing is top notch with beautiful shots and camera movement. The special effects look amazing as well. I was a little hesitant about this movie as I did not like Del Toro's previous film but this turned out very entertaining to me.  

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