No, this isn’t a movie about Bruce Lee, although with that title I can’t blame you for thinking that. Instead it’s a ‘’tale as old as time’’, about an unlikely love story between a woman and a monster, and who better to tell this tale than the Master of Monsters himself, Guillermo Del Toro.
(Still a better romance that Twilight)(Although that’s really not saying much…)
The year is 1962 (in the movie, but sometimes it does feel like we’re all living the past these days) and the focus is Eliza Esposito(Sally Hawkins), a mute woman who lives with her neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins) and works a secret government research facility as a janitor alongside her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer). One day, a new face arrives at the lab, Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) and in tow, a tank filled with water, and trapped inside a creature of the deep.
Over time Eliza sneaks into the lab and begins to bond with the creature in secret. Feeding it boiled eggs and teaching him sign language, demonstrating that the creature is in fact intelligent. While Strickland plans to torture and dissect the creature for research, the head scientist Bob Hofstetler (Michael Stuhlberg) is adamant about preserving the creature, as we learn he is secretly Soviet spy Dmitri Mosenkov, hoping to study the creature to give the Russians an edge in the Cold War.
Upon learning the creature is to be killed, Eliza puts a plan together to rescue him, while Dmitri’s superiors order him to kill the creature to prevent the Americans from learning anything that could give them the advantage in the Space Race. Enlisting the help of Giles and with Zelda’s reluctant assistance and Dmitri’s intervention, the creature is freed and brought to Eliza’s apartment until they can release him into the sea. All while an increasingly unhinged Strickland hunts for him.
You wouldn’t think that the story of a sea monster and a mute woman falling in love against the backdrop of the Cold War would make a compelling fairy tale. Del Toro really knows how invoke emotional response and all too human themes, much like Pan’s Labyrinth, although heads up, this is one fairy tale you don’t want to bring the kids to, Eliza and the creature isn’t exactly… platonic.
Also the creature is played by Doug Jones. Does this mean he’s related to Abe Sapien? Could this be the first sign of a Del Toro shared universe? Maybe we’ll get confirmation in Pacific Rim: Uprising. (Fingers crossed).
By Daniel Murphy