Story after story throughout the history of storytelling has revolved around friendship and its limitless boundaries. It’s an uplifting theme recognizable in any culture and society. Whether between man and animal or between people from two vastly opposing walks of life, the plethora of stories dealing with relationships all deliver the same consensus: friendship knows no prejudice. Based off of Roald Dahl’s children’s book, The BFG depicts a friendship between two people separated by two very different worlds.
Summary: (No spoilers)
After spotting an enormous creature stalking the streets of London in the dead of night, young orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is plucked from her bed and taken to Giant Country. She quickly discovers, however, that this particular giant is indeed a friendly giant, a Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance—–Bridge of Spies). Unlike the other giants in the land, this peaceful giant doesn’t eat children, instead collecting dreams and delivering them to people as they sleep. But the other not-so-friendly giants in the land don’t share his morals. In order to save England’s children from being devoured, Sophie and the BFG seek help from the Queen to rid the land of such nasty brutes.
Also starring: Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, and Bill Hader
The legendary Stephen Spielberg is among the most admired and respected directors of our time, a man whose multiple masterpieces of film will still be viewed centuries from now. We’ve seen him cover every genre from drama, war, animation, biopic, and family-friendly. Films like Hook and E.T. captured the spirit of childhood imagination. The BFG strives to accomplish very much the same thing.
The BFG is a film brimming with all the visual pizzazz and splendor that could derive from such a brilliant director. While a film of this type would suffer from an over-saturation of colors and CGI under most other directors, Spielberg manages to evoke the feeling of a fully realized set with authentic locations instead of a film modeled inside of a computer. Sure, there’s CGI aplenty, but it’s complemented by gorgeous imagery. But if there’s one standout aspect of the film’s visual splendor, it’s the motion-capture work done for Mark Rylance as the giant.
Coming off of his Oscar win for Bridge of Spies (also a Spielberg film), Rylance imbues the role with all the charm that could be given to a big, friendly giant. His pure charisma is coupled with some of the most gorgeous motion-capture work on a human character I’ve ever seen. Newcomer Ruby Barnhill plays her role with an equal amount of magnetism and sophistication. If there’s one thing that Spielberg accomplishes with aplomb in every one of his films, even the weaker ones, it’s coaxing the best performances from his actors that he possibly can. The young Sophie prompts just as much adoration and affection from the audience as E.T.’s Elliot.
Where The BFG ultimately falls a bit short is in its narrative. The first two-thirds feel somewhat lost, with no immediate focus. The story plods along with only a slight feeling that it knows where it wants to go. It’s in the last third of the film, when the duo finally attempts to persuade the Queen for her help, that it finally kicks into gear. The previous events are in no way unwatchable, they merely lack the drive to make us completely invested. But the two characters blend together with such seamless charm that it makes the first hour and a half bearable.
In a nutshell:
If The BFG is trying to be merely a fanciful family film with levity and magical charm, then it accomplishes its goal. If The BFG is striving to be something more meaningful (as one would excpect under the direction of a filmmaker like Spielberg), then it falls a bit short. The performances are as heart-felt and genuine as they could possibly be, and it’s a visually gorgeous piece of work, but this film just doesn’t quite hit the mark that it was perhaps aiming for.