Steven Spielberg / Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement / Family / 2016 / PG / 117mins
Spielberg’s Dahl adaptation plays safe yet still finds time to be drastically inventive.
A little orphan girl called Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) gets the shock of her life when she’s whisked away to giant country by a big friendly giant (Mark Rylance). The BFG is a fantasy film that embraces the magic of childhood.
Although fun and oddly moving – a balance that Spielberg so often gets right – the film still relies heavily on its CGI to impress… and my what CGI it is. The American director revitalises a fantasy children genre that was sorely lacking special effects that looked real.
Previous entrants either kept it brief or caved into awkward CGI/human interactions that make the Spanish Conquistador landings look civilised by comparison (I’m looking at you The Chronicles of Narnia). The fluency to merge the shots of Rylance and Barnhill would have taken some top notch editorial skill. It’s shocking to think such a landmark can be achieved in a family film. If there’s anyone to continue a rich vein of form, it’s Steven Spielberg.
The vivid camera palette that he has used of late – most notably in War Horse and Bridge of Spies – makes sense. It’s a bizarro-carnival extravaganza that draws utilises colour like thematic stabilisers. Everything seems in focus, bolder, so much so that it is almost shimmering. It creates a dreamscape: perfect for this phantasmagorical little-big-tale.
The choice of source material still disappoints me. The BFG‘s only challenge was the giant/child scenes, which Spielberg achieves, but the story is a little tame and so stiff-upper-lip British it hurts. The narrative’s ‘Royal solution’ is British charm at its best but is horribly dated. Whilst it had to be filmed, I’m going to quote that Grail Knight and say, “He chose… poorly.”
There’s no John Williams score to rave about, but Mark Rylance follows up his Oscar-winning performance in Bridge of Spies with his charming take on the title character, and with Ruby Barnhill’s steadfast Sophie in hot pursuit it’s hard not to see the appeal of this colourful movie for all the family. It hits hard at the niche market and stays put.
Film as a Film – 3 / Target Audience – 5 / General Audience – 2
The BFG is out in cinemas now
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The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, the publisher of the film, Walt Disney Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, or the graphic artist.