You really get value for money with Pan's Labyrinth, as it's two films meshed into one. One film tells the story of a last-ditch effort on the part of a small group of anti-Franco rebels to reverse the tide of an already lost civil war in the forests of Northern Spain, 1944. The sadistic Captain Vidal (Lopez) is in charge of a small platoon which is under orders to flush the rebels out, while his trusted cook Mercedes (Verdu) helps the rebels as best she can by slipping them food, medicine and information. Running parallel to this is the story of Vidal's stepdaughter Ofelia (Baquero) and her discovery of an ancient labyrinth close to the army base.
Following a fairy into the labyrinth one night, Ofelia meets a faun (Jones) who convinces her she is the Princess of the Moon, who was lost centuries ago and who must now complete three tasks if she is to realise her destiny. Pan's Labyrinth is a kids' movie for adults - a Gothic war film that's dark, violent and at times disturbing. Guillermo, directing arguably his best film to date, doesn't shy away from the horror: we are subjected to torture and murder at the hands of the fascists, nightmarish scenes involving eyeless demons, and the stitching of a facial wound delivered in one long static shot. Lopez and Verdu are flawless, but 12-year-old Ivana Baquero outshines them all. Comfortably assuming the leading role despite being surrounded by seasoned pros, Baquero takes it all in her stride and is more than a match for her heavyweight co-stars.
The film looks beautiful and if it doesn't get an Oscar for Art Direction, I'll eat my hat. And I don't own a hat, but I'll gladly pay top money for a nice Phillip Treacy and chow down.