Gary Cruise’s review published on Letterboxd:
Pan’s Labyrinth is a fantasy drama set in the Falangist Spain of 1944 where the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.
This might actually be the best Spanish film I have ever seen and it’s without a doubt Guillermo del Toro’s best film. Pan’s Labyrinth is truly unique, del Toro provides yet another genre mashup but this is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s a fantasy horror adventure drama war story that manages to utilise each and every one of those genres to such a high standard where nothing ever feels like it’s outdoing the other. It’s a monster movie at heart because across all those genres there’s always a monster present whether it’s in the form of the creatures within the fantasy world or even in the form of some very evil human characters.
Leading this story and leading the superb cast is Ofelia, played by Ivana Baquero. Ofelia’s story truly is so captivating throughout and it is very much thanks to the amazing performance by Baquero. She provides so much heart and emotion to the role and it’s easy to feel like you are going on this journey throughout this difficult time with her. Ariadna Gil is just as good as Ofelia’s mother, Carmen as is Maribel Verdú as the fantastic Mercedes. Sergi López does a brilliant job as antagonist, Vidal. I hated this character so much because of how convincing López was in the role, he does a great job in making a lot of scenes very intense because of how intimidating he is.
Frequent del Toro collaborator, Doug Jones is in this film as both Fauno and Pale Man, two of the main creatures in Ofelia’s fantasy world. Jones does an amazing job as always and both of these characters look incredible thanks to the mind blowing makeup effects used here. The set designs, the CGI, the practical effects, it all looks phenomenal. The way this mesmerising world is bought to life is truly something special and it’s only made better by the stunning cinematography that will leave many of the visually captivating scenes stuck in your head for days after the credits begin to roll. Even the soundtrack here is perfection. It captures this film’s very specific tone in the best way possible and constantly stands out alongside the beautiful visuals.
Overall, Pan’s Labyrinth is a genre mashup like no other and amongst some of the greatest films of all time. It’s a masterclass in filmmaking and a fine example of just how impressive and imaginative a filmmaker Del Toro is. Don’t leave it as long as I did, watch this film ASAP.
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