By Jack Dignan
Steven Spielberg is one of the most important film directors of all time, famous for creating what we call the blockbuster, as well as changing the way we make movies about 20,000 times over the course of his career. His films span a variety of genres, different films appealing to different people. The BFG sees Spielberg returning to the realm of kids movies, which is far from a bad thing as, after all, he did create E.T., one of the greatest kids movies of all time. The BFG will not go down in history as game changing, nor his best work, but as a film of its own, it's an utter delight.
Based on the classic children's novel by Roald Dahl, The BFG is the story of a young orphan named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill). She usually keeps to herself, unable to sleep and wandering around the house until late into the night. This leads her to discover the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance), or for short, The BFG, who takes Sophie to Giant Land, where he lives. Here, she discovers that The BFG is one of many giants, and that he is the only one of them who doesn't eat humans. He's a kind hearted, dream providing giant who forms an unlikely friendship with Sophie, and the first real friendship she's ever had.
The BFG is a visual delight, Spielberg taking us on yet another unforgettable and joyful adventure. I have fond memories of reading The BFG when I was a kid, and while I had forgotten nearly all of the story by the time I got to see the film yesterday, the adaptation felt loyal, capturing the imagination of Dahl to perfection. It's a magical, fleshed out and exciting world, full of dreams (literally) and wonders, and with a character as likeable as The BFG taking us on this journey, there was rarely a moment throughout when I didn't have a big grin on my face.
Giant Land is an awe-inspiring treat to behold, full of some of the strangest, most beautiful landscapes Spielberg has ever crafted. It's big and bold, capturing the true beauty of this world, and there's a location where The BFG collects dreams that is simply gorgeous. The visual effects department do a fantastic job at not only creating the environments, but also the giants, as they look photorealistic and flawless. The only down side to having a CGI-heavy environment as stunning as this one is that Sophie, the lead, is not animated in any way, shape or form, and from time to time, especially in the first act, she looks slightly out of place. It's a little bit jarring to watch at first, especially in comparison to this year's The Jungle Book, which seamlessly blended together a single human character with an entirely CGI environment.
Still, her character occasionally looking out of place doesn't take away from the magic of this entire story. It's heart warming and moving, feeling like a classic Spielberg movie. Dahl's novel is fresh and original, and translated onto screen it works exceptionally well. The plot is constantly moving forward, and while the first half is a little loose, the second half feels more tightly constraint in its storytelling. Plus, there are some laugh-out-loud hilarious moments, especially the scenes involving a drink called a 'Whiz Popper,' which were absolutely perfect.
The BFG, in my opinion, was just a fascinating character. While all of his fellow giants are loud, obnoxious cannibals, The BFG is a loving, innocent fellow with a heart of gold, and Mark Rylance is the perfect choice for the role. Rylance was phenomenal in last year's Bridge of Spies, another Spielberg directed movie, and clearly those two get along well as Rylance is set to star in Spielberg's next two movies. He captures the playfulness and sweetness of The BFG, and the character design helps with this, too. He looks and feels like the character created by Dahl, and Rylance nails every single aspect of this iconic role.
To sum up, The BFG is a crowd pleasing, heart warming, lough out loud funny and wondrous tale that feels like classic Spielberg. It's a joyous and magical journey with a flawless performance from Mark Rylance, top notch visual effects and a world that feels authentic. I loved this movie. Definitely check it out.