Direction: Steven Spielberg
Actors: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill
Rating: 4.5 / 5
It’s the dream team for a family-friendly film fantasy. Produced by Amblin Entertainment & Walt Disney Pictures (whose logo seems to have been elided from the opening credits), The BFG has been adapted from Roald Dahl’s classic fable for the big screen by Melissa Mathison, who also scripted E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and directed by the peerless Steven Spielberg.
An undeniable master at telling deeply affecting matinee-style tales, the enduring auteur’s 29th feature retains enough magical elements from the source novel to delight kids and captivate adults.
Narrated with characteristic visual elegance, Spielberg’s latest cinematic adventure focuses on the unlikely friendship between an insomniac orphan girl (fresh-faced newcomer Barnhill, a genuine discovery) and the 24-ft-tall, big-eared older man who whisks her away to his giant kingdom.
The vocabulary-challenged behemoth (Rylance) who refers to himself as “a feature of habit” is a vegetarian, unlike the nine other much taller ogres who devour “human beans” and torment the titular protagonist for his gentle ways.
Determined to solve the “cannibullies” problem once and for all, the 10-year- old orphan and the big friendly giant seek help from the Queen of England (Penelope Wilton).
The action-heavy resolution is a bit of an anti-climax, but despite the medley of special effects, the thoughtful story remains at the forefront. Striving to cope with parental loss, the little girl finds solace in the gargantuan presence of her new buddy, who is also all alone in the world and yearns for acceptance and affection.
Watch the trailer here
Indeed, the benevolent giant spends most of his time harvesting dreams that he delivers to the bedrooms of sleeping children during the witching hour.
Spielberg’s regular collaborators Janusz Kaminski (cinematography), John Williams (music composer) and Rick Carter (production design) contribute to the wondrous evocation of the fairy-tale realm.
But it’s the melancholic motion-capture performance by Mark Rylance (last year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winner for Spielberg’s previous movie, Bridge of Spies) that fuels the film’s emotional impact. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if Rylance is considered for a second consecutive Academy Award, this time for Best Actor.
Ranking alongside the director’s best work (E.T…, Raiders of the Lost Ark, A.I. Artificial Intelligence), The BFG is another awe-inspiring encounter of the Spielberg kind.