Crimson Peak SPOILER-FREE Review
Guillermo del Toro has a very distinct visual style with his films. Pan's Labyrinth is a prime example of this. Every frame of that movie is set up with an expert eye, and is a visual feast. And from just the trailers, I could tell that Crimson Peak would be yet another example of del Toro's visual excellence. But I had a real fear that this film would suffer from style over substance, where the film is visually brilliant, but the story and characters lacks similar depth. I went into this movie optimistic, but fearful. I knew it would be gorgeous to watch, but I was afraid that it may feel hollow. As if I was watching an art exhibit rather than a film. But after stepping out of the theater, I can confidently say that the film is gorgeous, and there's an equally deep story that follows.
Crimson Peak tells the story of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), who is an aspiring author. After she meets tall, dark and handsome Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), she marries him and moves into his estate in London with Thomas' sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain). But the longer Edith stays in the house, the more she realizes her husband and her sister aren't who they seem to be. Oh, and there are ghosts too.
Crimson Peak's biggest asset is its visuals. Like I said before, it's a gorgeous movie. And that is its real strength. Del Toro applies a technique in using the camera as an almost non-physical presence. Meaning, the camera doesn't feel limited to being stationary. This allows the camera, for example, to pan in on a candle and then move up over the flame and then circle around the room. It mainly allows for many different unique and fascinating camera movements that may take you out of the film, but just to marvel at the brilliance of the shot. Del Toro also utilizes colors fantastically. In Crimson Peak, colors have a specific role. Some are symbolism, while others are representatives of other elements, such as how the use the color red is only in reference to the ghosts. With symbolism, white represents purity and innocence, while black is used to show evil and darkness.
The characters are also very fleshed out. This was the biggest surprise for me with the film. I was afraid of style over substance, where in fact we got very dynamic characters and relationships. Edith may seem like a very one-note character, but it isn't until the end that we really see her character come into her own. The same can be said for Thomas and Lucille. While we see glimpses of who they truly are throughout the film, it isn't until the end of the movie that who they really are comes to fruition. Whether that is a better or a worse person depends upon the character. One of the most fascinating aspects of this film is the relationship between Lucille and Thomas. I would love to go in depth about it, but it would reveal a lot about the movie, and this is a spoiler-free review. Just know that it's one aspect of the movie I particularly like. And while the performances in this film are all great, Jessica Chastain specifically shines. She plays a very reserved and cold character, who doesn't really show her emotions until the end. I think she has a shot for getting a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Academy Awards.
I do have some problems with the film, though. Some parts of it did feel rushed, specifically the development of Edith and Thomas' relationship before they marry and go to London. I understand that this part was necessary in order to progress the story, but it felt like del Toro rushed this in order to move on. Certain scenes and transitions could have been tweaked in order to make them more fluid, and to keep with the regular pace of the film. I also had an issue with the ghosts. While they looked fantastic, they did feel out of place. I loved the scenes on their own. It was scary and was very well directed horror. But in the context of the film, it didn't really fit. The film set up a well crafted mystery, but then it would take a detour and give us jump-scare ghost scenes. It felt out of place, and I think if it had been fine-tuned more, then it would have fit better into the context of the film. Some of the romantic moments between Edith and Thomas are also a bit sappy, but that's just nitpicking.
Overall, Crimson Peak is a fascinating dramatic mystery. The cinematography by Dan Lausten will most likely get an Oscar nomination, and the score by Fernando Velázquez is great as well. The style is what really makes this movie, giving us very rich images that fill the entirety of the screen. But the story is also very well done. Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddelston and Charlie Hunnam are all great in this film, but Jessica Chastain really stands out. Some parts of the movie feel rushed in order to progress to the next part of the story. The ghost scenes, while great on their own, also feel out of place from the rest of the movie. But in the end, Crimson Peak is a really great movie to see, and is a true depiction of Guillermo del Toro's filmmaking talents.
What do you think? Did you see Crimson Peak? Did you like it? Leave your (spoiler-free) thoughts in the comments section below.
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