Reviewed by Daniel Janks: actor, creative director, writer, cynic, father, husband. He was born in 1977 and has still not died. He loves many things, chief among which are his mythic wife and odd girl-child. Visit his website.
Director Steven Spielberg
Writer Melissa Mathison
Cast Mark Rylance, Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader
AGE RESTRICTION: [PG]
Look, it’s a kiddy’s movie, but my five year old did get a little freaked out by the man-eating giants.
It was touch and go here whether this was a 4/10 or a 5/10. And I’m not sure I’ve gotten it right. The film is fabulous. It’s rich and funny and scary and exciting. The BFG is as lovable as he’s always been and the story as preposterously, magically, idiotically delicious as it’s always been. As movie adaptations go this one nails it in the noggin.
So why the 4, and not the 5? I guess I’m not sure. There’s a little rhythmic falter in the middle somewhere. Somehow it seems to momentarily loose its way, along the way, and while it finds it again very quickly there’s something missing somewhere. Somewhere it breathes in and doesn’t breathe out. It’s the tiniest of things, but it’s there somewhere. Not to say it isn’t damn near perfect, and that’s rare as snozzcumbers.
Based on Roald Dahl’s very famous book by the same name, The BFG is all about an orphan girl, called Sophie, who’s plucked from her bed in a dreary orphanage and whisked away to Giantland by, you guessed it, a big friendly giant. Once there Sophie learns all about the giant world and its disgusting snozzcumbers which are all The BFG has to eat, Frobscottle, the downward-bubbling, fart-inducing, squizzly-feeling producing beverage he bottles and his flesh-eating, man-biting, human-bean devouring kin that torment him and snatch poor unsuspecting beans from their homes and gobbleses them up. But all this is about to change if the rambunctious Sophie has anything to do with it.
If you saw Spielberg’s last film, Bridge of Spies, then you’ll have been wowed by the breathtaking understatement and remarkable delicacy of Mark Rylance’s performances. He’s been banging about for the many years, and now that he’s making the jump into main stream blockbusters everyone’s going, ‘oh him, I know him’. But mark my words he’ll be a Bryan Cranstonian household name before very long. In The BFG Rylance plays none other than The BFG himself. And he brings a quirky fragility and otherworldly charming oddness to the role that evokes the literary giant (haha) perfectly. I truly think that if Mr Dahl had know what modern film-making would be capable, then this is what he would have imagined his BFG to be like on the big screen. Rylance is impeccable as the titular character.
But Roald Dahl’s book isn’t just about the big-eared lovable giant. In fact one might say it isn’t even mostly about him. The book is about a little girl. In the film Sophie is played by relative newcomer Ruby Barnhill. And Ruby brings to her role almost all the magic that Rylance brings to his. She’s enchanting as Sophie and serves as a perfect counterpoint to Rylance’s friendly giant. She may not have the perfect seductive charm of other breakout child actors, like Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun, or Haley Joel Osment in The 6th Sense, but she’s wonderful and owns her time on screen like a tried and true pro.
There are a bunch of other human-beans in the film and all comport themselves with grace and aplomb, but the real stand out support accolades must go to the other giants. It’s Fleshlumpeater, Blood bottler and their horde, which serve to inject a real sense of danger and risk into the film. They are the perfect menace to The BFG and Sophie’s heroics.
Well, I mean, it’s Spielberg. He’s the man who, while he didn’t actually invent Filmic Vision, certainly perfects it time and time again. This is the man who brought us Jaws. And Schindler’s List. And Indiana Jones. And Jurassic Park. And Saving Private Ryan. This man is, quite simply, one of the greatest film-makers of all time, and he certainly brings his great big brain to The BFG. This film is a wonderful example of how a filmmaker can uniquely stamp an adaptation as his own, while simultaneously making sure that the original author’s vision is given pride of place in the process.
The BFG is a triumph. Go see it. Take your kids. Buy the DVD so you’ll always own it.
The BFG will be in South African cinemas from July 1, 2016