December 14, 2017: The Shape of Water (Movie Review)

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A Brief History

On December 14, 2017, we would like to take a moment to discuss the new feature film, The Shape of Water, a science fiction Cold War based movie that is hard to fit into a particular movie genre.

Theatrical release poster

Featuring spies, mad scientists, cold blooded bureaucrats, artists and other sensitive people, race and class struggle, and of course, love, and the lack of love.  Oh, and it also features a Creature From the Black Lagoon type character as well!

Theatrical release poster by Reynold Brown

Digging Deeper

Guillermo del Toro, horror and sci-fi maven, wrote and directed the film, and his vision for this movie is extraordinary.  Piecing together the parts of this complex film without getting off track or confusing is masterful.  The packed screening audience was watching the film with rapt attention, and provided a great back drop of gasps, laughs, and rousing applause at the end to heighten our viewing experience.

Some critics have belabored the lack of perfection in dating the cars in the movie (set in 1962), but this point is so trivial as to be not worth mentioning.  Sally Hawkins as the protagonist of the film is absolutely a contender for Best Actress, possibly even a shoo-in (look out, Frances McDormand!).  Michael Shannon as the anti-hero is creepy, creepy, creepy.  If you remember him from Boardwalk Empire (on HBO) you can see the resemblance in the characters.

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are cleaning women at a secret US government facility that is studying a creature captured in the Amazonian jungle, an aquatic semi-humanoid monster.  Elisa, a mysterious mute woman, befriends the creature and that is where we cut any chance at spoiling the movie for you!  Shannon plays the evil Richard Strickland in charge of the facility, a brutal, uncaring, ambitious some sort of agent that cares little about the science involved in studying the creature.  He just wants whatever advantage the creature could possibly give the United States over the Soviets, and to keep the creature out of Soviet hands.  The Soviets, meanwhile, are doing their best to learn the secrets of the creature or somehow keep the Americans from learning those secrets.

This movie is different!  Not just a love story, not just a Cold War microcosm, not just a sci-fi monster movie, it is a seamless blend of many types of film, throwing in sexual acts, nudity, relationships, homosexuality, government secrecy, racism, sexism, murder, brutality, and a form of justice.  It even has a surreal scene of singing and dancing that we never saw coming, and yet works perfectly in the film.  Wow!  There are some poignant moments, and more than a few funny times, but not so many or so uproarious that they detract from the serious tone of the plot.

Not only is Sally Hawkins magnificent as a lovelorn, non-speaking woman, the film may well be a contender (perhaps with Dunkirk and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) for the Best Picture Oscar.  Not a movie for pre-teens due to sexuality and nudity, families with older teens with some maturity should strongly consider the movie, and of course, any adult is likely to find the film entertaining.  Casting, acting, and directing are all strong, and the film is deliciously different.

Go see The Shape of Water and please tell us what you make of this eminently interesting movie.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

McIntyre, Gina and Guillermo del Toro.  Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water: Creating a Fairy Tale for Troubled Times.  Insight Editions, 2017.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.