Pan's Labyrinth (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/11/2006

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 119 mins

Superbly acted and beautifully directed, this is a bewitching tale that will stay with you long after you leave the cinema. One of the best films of the year.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth is set in Franco's Spain in 1944 and stars Ivana Baquero as Ofelia, a young girl who moves to an isolated military outpost with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) and her new stepfather, the vicious Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez). Exploring her new surroundings, Ofelia discovers a stone labyrinth and encounters a friendly faun (Doug Jones), who promises her that she'll become queen of a magical land if she can complete three magical tasks.

Meanwhile, Vidal conducts a brutal search for rebel Nationalists, little realising that his own housekeeper (Maribel Verdu) is helping them. He also becomes increasingly obsessed with continuing his family line, even if it means sacrificing Ofelia's mother.

The Good
Ivana Baquero is terrific as Ofelia, exhibiting just the right amount of wide-eyed wonder but also displaying genuine courage, such as when she faces off against a giant toad. Doug Jones (Abe Sapien in Hellboy) makes a distinctly disturbing father figure as the faun and is also memorably creepy as The Pale Man, whilst Sergi Lopez brims with genuine evil as Vidal.

The set design is incredibly imaginative, particularly during the fantasy sequences and Guillermo Navarro's gorgeous cinematography creates a powerful and intense atmosphere.

The Great
It's also fun to spot the various references, as there are nods to everything from Alice in Wonderland to Labyrinth, while the themes (fantasy as an escape from a fascist reality closely parallel del Toro's previous Spanish film, The Devil's Backbone.

However, it's worth noting that this is emphatically not a film for young children, as it contains disturbing imagery and some horrific violence.

Worth seeing?
This is Guillermo del Toro's masterpiece to date and easily one of the films of the year. Unmissable.

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Content updated: 20/10/2017 00:46

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