James Newling’s review published on Letterboxd:
"You're getting older, and you'll see that life isn't like your fairy tales. The world is a cruel place. And you'll learn that, even if it hurts."
I’m not a huge fan of fantasy in general, it Pan’s Labyrinth, a beautiful fairytale adventure set against the violent backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, is something very different.
I do not hesitate to call this film a masterpiece, and Guillermo del Toro’s masterclass, with spectacular direction and cinematography, as well as beautiful set and production design. The screenplay is deceptively complex, as where it seems lighthearted and simple, it deals with some very strong themes, but also wraps a manic plot together logically and intelligently. The special effects were incredibly realistic, with the exception of only two specific scenes with some really bad fire/explosion effects, but these didn’t distract from the film.
The acting is faultlessly phenomenal and endlessly believable, with great performances by Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez and Doug Jones, but the standout for me really was Maribel Verdú as Mercedes. This, though, brings me to my only major flaw with the film. Where the film spends a lot of time developing the complexity of characters, Sergi Lopez’s Captain Vidal, the film’s villain, is believably despicable, but that is it. I found it very difficult to sympathise with his character (which I believe is very important for a successful villain) as I felt there was very little, if any, good in him. His actions didn’t feel motivated, but were simply for the sake of being the big bad, and that is the only reason this film gets a 4.5 rather than a 5.
I wish I could have seen this film at the cinemas, because this without a doubt one of the most gorgeous looking films I’ve seen. If you haven’t gathered it by now, I highly highly recommend this film.