Director(s): Steven Spielberg
Writer(s): Melissa Mathison
Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jermaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Adam Godley, Michael David Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Jonathan Holmes, Chris Gibbs and Paul Moniz de Sá
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Jul 1, 2016 - Wide
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Steven Spielberg’s The BFG is a children’s fable that perfectly is suited for kids of all ages, even the ones that pretend to be grown-ups. It is a nice escape from the outside world.
Based on the 1982 children’s book by Roald Dahl, the screenplay was written by someone else who had success in 1982 with a story of a child befriending an otherworldly being. Melissa Mathison, who passed away last year, wrote the script for that film, another Spielberg work by the name of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
We first meet little Sophie (a delightful Ruby Barnhill) wandering around the orphanage she lives in. Despite being set in the 1980’s, the orphanage is straight out of Dickens, with larger rooms full of rows upon rows of sleeping children. When Sophie spies a giant (Mark Rylance, in a motion capture performance) out of a window, he snatches her away, lest she tell the world that giants really do exists.
This giant is not an angry child-eating ogre of a man. Instead, he’s a gentle giant whose work is capturing and mixing dreams to blow into the ears of slumbering human beings, or “beans” as he calls them. He calls a lot of things by odd names, like “hippodumplings” and “crocadowndillies”. He’s not scary at all, and soon little Sophie calls him BFG for “Big Friendly Giant.”
He may be big and friendly, but his brothers (who include Jermaine Clement and Bill Hader) are bigger. Much bigger. And way less friendly. Oh, and they like to eat children, too. Sophie and the BFG know that these angry giants must be stopped. All they need is a plan. And the Queen.
Spielberg and his team have created a perfect world to play in. The scenes in Giant Country are stunning, with sweeping mountain vistas and scenery large enough for a group of brothers who use cars as roller skates. The BFG’s cave home is a cornucopia of re-purposed materials and knick-knacks that are large enough for Sophie to run around in. I’m sure that more than one child wouldn’t mind having the BFG’s sailing ship bed. The scene where BFG goes hunting for dreams is dazzling too.
Young Ruby Barnhill is a real find. Her Sophie comes off head-strong and sure of herself, but never teeters into precocious. Mark Rylance, who won an Oscar for his understated performance in Bridge of Spies, is anything but understated in this role. His BFG is expressive and protective, loyal and loving and the motion capture work is so good that you forget that you’re watching a CGI character as opposed to an actor with prosthetics shot with forced perspective to make him appear larger. Clement, Hader and the other giant brothers manage to be both scary and oafish and Penelope Wilton’s Queen Elizabeth II has enough sense and backbone to star in her own line of royal action films.
The not as wondrous in scale as E.T., The BFG still manages to show how a little love, loyalty and adventure makes for a fine friendship, no matter who you are.
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