Mixture of war movie and drama with fantasy and horror, remains Guillermo Del Toro's greatest accomplishment. Unsuccessful attempts to recapture the same magic only secure this as a triumph of both style and substance. Mankind's disposals are the most despicable incarnations - while set and creature designs are as timeless as the message of "small traces in time visible only to those who know where to look".
So I guess del Toro is antifa. Lol. Kidding aside, it's a solid movie. The cinematography is the strongest point, and the script is great, but I would have liked to see more of the fantastical. It leans more on the war drama side, as another reviewer pointed out. And that's fine, but still. Seems like there's some missed potential there.
I have a lot of sympathy for the characters, and I liked how it portrayed the problems of picking sides in war. Doug Jones's faun is a highlight with all his shaking hooves and enigmatic personality.. The second task with the hand-eye pale man monster is a really good nightmare is hard to forget. My only minor problem with the story is that too many characters make stupid mistakes.
4.5 stars. One of the only "fairytale films" I've ever found totally convincing. Partly this may be because Del Toro designs monsters like how a child designs monsters; because the lullaby melody is perfectly haunting; because the colour saturation and shift in visual tones between overground and underground is just right for somnambulist revelry; because Ivana Baquero seems so utterly sincere...) Del Toro's peak.
A stronger riff of The Spirit of the Beehive, but similarly edging near melodrama with its black-and-white characterizations and its supernatural world rarely coalescing in narrative/symbols/themes with its earthbound one. Yet, the grounded drama still hits hard, even if del Toro doesn't quite earn the fantastical relevance. This is a case when a film is perfect in the human emotion it has, even if it's not complete.