“Pan’s Labyrinth” is the kind of film that doesn’t get made in America.  It’s a brutally dark and sad R-rated war drama/fantasy starring a 12-
year old girl.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” was written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro.  Del Toro is best known to American audiences as the director of “Blade
II” and “Hellboy.”  

Being underwhelmed by both of those films, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from “Pan.”  Having now seen it, I can tell you to expect one
of the finest films of 2006; well deserving of the praise it has received.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” is the story of a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) who is caught in the brutal reality of 1940s fascist Spain.  Her
father is dead and her mother is pregnant with the child of a despicable and abusive captain played by Sergi Lopez.  Ofelia and her mother
go to live with the captain.

Ofelia’s only escape is through her books.  One night she meets a fairy that leads her to the labyrinth, where a faun reveals her identity as
the queen of the underworld.  She must complete three tasks to return to her kingdom where her father awaits.

But the film is really much more about the real world situations as Ofelia’s mother becomes sick with the child and the war comes closer to
home.

The movie is absolutely brutal in a way that is refreshing.  Captain Vidal is as disgusting as any monster that the film could have conjured in
its fantasy world and is much more frightening.  On the other side, Ofelia is the perfect counter balance as an innocent girl who just wants
to be with her mother and have a normal childhood.

Del Toro’s direction is beautifully simple with help from an art director and cinematographer that both won Oscars for the film.

Javier Navarrete provides an ominous and melancholy score that will never blow you away, but is consistently excellent.  The main theme is
instantly recognizable as the identity of the film.

“Pan” works so well because we care about its characters as they face impossible situations.  There is certainly a payoff, but the film is
tragic.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” is Del Toro’s masterpiece; a film that is both heartfelt and horrific, and one of the best films of 2006.

* * * *
(out of four)
PAN'S LABYRINTH

Written and Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez, Maribel Verdu,
Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil, Alex Angulo, Monolo Solo

Cinematography by: Guillermo Navarro

Music by: Javier Navarrete

Released: December 29, 2006; 112 Minutes