The Shape of Water
It’s 1960s Baltimore and the mute Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) lives alone, and spends her nights cleaning a government facility. Sure she has a friend in Giles (Richard Jenkins), her neighbor who loves pie, and her co-worker Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer), but she longs for love and a romantic partner. Then one day at work, a new vessel arrives containing a valuable “asset” (Doug Jones) from South America. Elisa and Zelda’s dick of a boss, Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) gets attacked by the creature, losing two fingers. Elisa and Zelda go into the room housing the creature and clean his blood, and that’s when Elisa sees the half-fish, half-human creature and becomes fascinated with it as she sees it as an outsider like herself. During her lunches, Elisa eats by his aquatic cage, feeding it hard-boiled eggs, teaching it sign language, and playing it music. However, during one break she sees Strickland torture the thing, zapping it with a cattle prod, getting more than his revenge for taking off two of his fingers. Meanwhile, a new doctor at the facility, Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) notices Elisa’s fondness for the creature. Not that he cares, as he’s really a Soviet spy seeking to get the creature to his leaders so they can study it. Unfortunately for him, his bosses rather he just the creature to prevent the Americans from learning anything about it. Strickland’s boss, General Hoyt (Nick Searcy) also wants to kill the creature and cut it open to learn about it, which Strickland can’t wait for. Elisa, hidden in the room, overhears all this and, after convincing a reluctant Giles, gets his help, and together they concoct a plan to break the creature out. Will they be able to get the creature out before Strickland kills it?
The Shape of Water continues the trend of Hollywood movies that are two hours or longer that don’t need to be two hours or longer. The movie really starts to sag after Elisa breaks the creature out, where it takes too long before Strickland is given a deadline to find it. (It also doesn’t make sense why she would wait so long to free the creature to the ocean…) But what really doesn’t do the movie any favors is that the story goes where you expect it, much like Del Toro’s Crimson Peak, although more seems to be going on in The Shape of Water that it’s less frustrating when the movie catches up to your anticipation. What’s also slightly disappointing about The Shape of Water is that as an original movie it’s not very original; it’s pretty much The Little Mermaid told in reverse. But the actors help elevate the movie from being a predictable, slow mess. Sally Hawkins is terrific and very rootable. Octavia Spencer is always so likable, it makes you wonder if she’ll ever have the chance to get a starring role. Michael Shannon’s Strickland goes total villain and then it seems like they added random scenes with him to make him more of a tragic figure than full on evil guy, although it feels forced. It’s clear Del Toro put a lot into the movie, but the end result is a predictable movie that runs a bit too long, that ends up just being a slightly better than average movie.