23 December 2018 | Spikeopath
Bend me, shape me, anyway you want me!
Guillermo del Toro directs and co-writes with Vanessa Taylor what would turn out to be the Best Picture Academy Award Winner for 2017. A much loved film that's not without dissention in certain quarters, it's a picture that warrants dissention but it should be noted that just because someone doesn't like it, that doesn't make it a bad film. I'm certainly in the camp that finds it over praised, even annoyingly disappointing, whilst appreciating many of the facets within its production.
Story in simple terms is a Beauty and the Beast like fable where Sally Hawkins' mute cleaning lady Elisa Esposito falls in love with a captured Amphibian Man. Amphibian Man is known by the government types as The Asset, and as the Cold War rises and 60s paranoia takes a hold, the American big wigs want to vivisect the special species to learn from it. Elisa, after courting "The Asset", enlists the help of close friends and plots to free the creature from its captivity in the underground medical bunker labyrinth place.
Now as simple as that sounds, there is more to it than that, del Toro and Taylor whilst enveloping the pic in a fantasy realm feel, ensure messages are thrust hard at the viewers. Be it the racial disharmony, the quest for different walks of life finding love with each other, the cry for humans to stop being bad and killing things because they don't understand them, torture is evil and etc etc. It's all right there in your face and we get it. So plot maybe simple but for sure there's a lot being said in the narrative.
Yet as great as it looks, and it's superbly acted by Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer, it just to me loses its way come the mid-point, getting daft and even getting a little icky into the bargain. I have no problem with improbabilities and outrageous contrivances here, this is del Toro painting one of his fantastical worlds - only on Earth in the early 60s! But the pay off is poor, hinging on a twist that's not only ridiculous, but insulting as well because otherwise the pic would be very troubling indeed. No art deco eye orgasms or vibrant characterisations can compensate for a film that runs out of steam.
That said, I was glad to have watched it, there's even a possibility I could return to it in the future - this is very good film making. But it's not a great film by any stretch of the imagination and not for the first time in the Academy's long history, many are baffled by their choice of Best Picture winner. 6/10