You see a Guru and you gush at all the good points and talk about the bad points. Then you go to see something like Pan's Labyrinth and things fall into perspective. If Guru is 7.9/10, where do you put Pan's Labyrinth? 9.5 perhaps? Problem is, its not as if its the greatest movie ever. If you judge it independent of Guru, it will probably fall somewhere around 9. But thats not too bad, is it?
In a year that seemed very bad for quality movies till very close to the end, there seem to be a million great movies that released right at the end of the year which makes this time a very exciting and busy time for anyone who wants to catch all these movies before they leave the theatres. I still have to see most of these movies. Of the top of my head, this must-watch list includes Flags of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima, Dreamgirls, Children of Men, Volver, The Lives of Others, Blood Diamond, The Painted Veil, The Last King of Scotland etc. And maybe a couple others that are not quite must-watch but given an opportunity I'll see them (like Casino Royale, Borat, A Prairie Home Companion, The Illusionist etc). This probably means that I have absolutely no right to say "this is the best movie of the year" but I can't imagine more than a couple of these movies finally impressing me more than Pan's Labyrinth.
So, what is it that I just saw? A fantasy? probably. A war movie? most likely. A drama? A thriller? Horror? All of the above? Its a genre-bending movie that mixes everything and does it so well that the first thing that came to my mind was "What the hell does one start with when writing something like this? What is the seed? What is the basic idea that develops into something like Pan's Labyrinth? "
It mixes a story of rebels fighting an insanely cruel military captain with a story of a girl grappling with a fantasy world full of fairies, monsters and suchlike. The two stories keep running parallel throughout without a single place where the transition might seem forced/unnatural. The seamlessly bound threads come together in the end and even though I personally didn't quite see the thematic link between the two very clearly, it didnt bother me much just because everything seemed to work so well. Those who have been reading my reviews before already know how I completely fall for anything with great visuals and music. And this is a movie with beautiful images and even more amazing sounds. So you can see where that 9/10 rating is coming from. :) That is not to say that the story doesn't work. Its a wonderfully told story that just keeps you entranced from the first to the last frame.
Don't miss it, even if you aren't normally a foreign-language-movie person. But beware, there are probably a couple violent images and maybe just a couple of places where the images/situations might seem bordering on horror, at least for children in the audience. Another tip - as is true for any movie with great cinematography and music, it'd be a pity if you don't see it in a theatre!