Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Genre: Drama Fantasy Thriller
Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro (The Devil's Backbone; Hellboy)
Overview: A young girl goes to live with her pregnant mother and a military captain in Franco-ruled Spain. Amidst the oppression of the people, the girl finds herself in a fantastical world where she quests to be a fairy princess.
Acting: I've said recently that there are some films that need constant defence rather than evaluation, and you won't find Pan's Labyrinth to be the kind of film that has critics debating it's worth. In fact, some reviews are almost too easy to write because I'll just be saying what everyone one else has. We have some great talent here, and the film runs as smoothly as this praise of it will. For you sick freaks out there, you'll like the Fascist Captain the best.
Cinematography: This is what draws people out. This is what will make the Lowest Common Denominator forgive the subtitles. They'll be so impressed with that eyeball-handed monster and the faun and the frog and the fantasy of it all, that they won't think reading a chore. What their kids might not like is all the gore, like when, early on, the Captain punches a dude in the face until it's mushy. Course, I'm not a kid, so party on. You don't need me telling you this is impressive... I don't even know why I bothered.
Script: Speaking of subtitles, I remember once going into a chain video-rental place with my selection when the clerk reminded me that there were subtitles in it with the question "Do you still want it?". My reply of "Of course, how many people actually say no to that?" was retorted with an astonishing "About half." And this is Canada, where we pride ourselves in our ability to read. I expected poetry in Pan, but all I got was well-written declarations of fact and opinion.
Plot: What makes this story great is the context. A young girl dreaming of a fantastical world while brutality encroaches upon her, keeping the story rooted in mature-sized terror rather than playing up the beauty and magic of everything... that's what makes this film entertaining for the realists among us. Though, I would have liked just a touch more fantasy and less fascism, I wouldn't have minded a longer movie to accommodate both.
Mood: The first complaint I have about this film are the odd moments that were worse than a guided tour for its exposition. We have a servant who is shown to have a concealed knife on her person, not once but twice. Thanks for reminding me how she'll be using it as a weapon at some point - twice. Then there's the most harrowing fantasy scene of the whole film: with such warnings as "Don't eat a thing, your life depends on it," you'd really think there would be a better way to rouse the sleeping beast than going and doing the very thing you were expressly told not to do. All the 'real moments', those 'above ground' times with violence and torture taking place, they were rich in period and oppression and iron-fisted evil. It's fantastic. As for the fantastical quests themselves, I'll admit they weren't the grand expressions I hoped for, gorgeous as they were.
Sweet evil Spanish dictators. Why are dictators always so well dressed?
Overall Rating: 84% (A-maze-ing Enough)
Aftertaste: None of the dozen of us who went to this doubted how good this would be and none were disappointed, so as reviews go, you'd do well to see this, but to Hell with IMDB's Top 250. I've been watching this movie on that list since Thursday where it was #125. I thought this was very impressive for a movie that had only screened at festivals. Tuesday morning it's #100, and #90 by the afternoon. Right now it's sitting at #88. Hardly. Who pays who to create accounts and click 'best movie ever'? I'm not buying it.