Director: Steven Spielberg.
Screenplay: Melissa Mathison.
Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Jermaine Clement, Penelope Wilton, Rafe Spall, Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Adam Godley, Michael Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Jonathan Holmes, Chris Gibbs, Paul Moniz de Sa.
“I hears your lonely heart, in all the secret whisperings of the world”
With the exception of The Adventures of Tintin in 2011, Steven Spielberg has been getting all serious on us over the last five years. He’s predominantly dealt with war, politics and espionage in War Horse, Lincoln and Bridge of Spies respectively. However, he now reunites with his E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison to bring a much loved children’s novel to the big screen in The BFG – a film which brings reminders of his fantastical adventures and his ability to deliver family friendly entertainment. One evening in her orphanage young Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) encounters something she never knew existed – a 24 foot tall giant. To protect his anonymity, the giant decides to take her back to Giant Country where an initially apprehensive Sophie realises that the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) is actually very gentle and well mannered. However, her arrival in Giant Country attracts the attention of bigger, more bloodthirsty giants that have been known to eat children, leaving Sophie and the BFG formulating a plan to get rid of them for good.
Spielberg always seemed like the perfect choice to adapt Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel and it doesn’t take long to to realise the story is in safe hands with him. From the opening sequence alone on how the giant manages to hide while prowling the city at night is one of the film’s true highlights and while still putting his own stamp on the proceedings, Spielberg shows that he has a keen eye and ear for the essence of the book. The BFG’s lexicon of gibberish language is a delight and the stunning visuals really bring the character to life. As is often the case with Spielberg’s fantasies, it’s quite a spectacle.In a combination of CGI, motion capture and exemplary acting abilities Mark Rylance delivers a solid performance as the amiable giant. Despite his imposing presence, Rylance captures the emotion and sensitivity required for the role without ever overplaying it. Put simply, he’s an absolute joy to watch. And the same goes for Jermaine Clement as the Fleshlumpeater – The BFG’s bloodthirsty nemesis.
The film is not without it’s problems, though. For a start, it has pacing issues. It’s overlong and within it’s two hour running time has several periodic lulls which can cause your concentration to waver. Younger viewers, in particular, may find themselves distracted. That said, the final third taps more into a child’s sense of humour with the odd fart joke here and there and Spielberg can’t resist being overly sentimental on occasion. As much as this will capture the enthusiasm for kids, it will probably ostracise some adults and it’s this unbalanced approach that becomes a slight sticking point. Overall, though, these are small gripes as there’s still plenty to admire from Spielberg’s efforts. It’s escapist entertainment with a genuine heart and playfulness and when it’s called upon to be exciting, it has some excellent set-pieces that Spielberg is more than able to handle.The late Melissa Mathison’s screenplay has a tendency to wander and the film could have been tighter but the visual effects are astonishing and Rylance and Clement really deliver the goods in the acting stakes. A magical childhood classic that has finally been given the big screen treatment that it’s deserved for years.
Trivia: At one point during the movie’s long gestation and development, the late Robin Williams was touted to star as the BFG.