One thing that knowledgeable cinema fans and casual moviegoers have in common is that they’ve been affected by Steven Spielberg’s work at some time in their life. Whether you’ve been afraid to take a summer dip in the ocean due to Jaws, wanted to be a world traveling adventurer like Indiana Jones or witnessed the return of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, Spielberg’s work is synonymous with the quintessential movie experience. Without a doubt, Spielberg’s films are of a quality that we can unanimously agree on and is usually the first name that comes to mind whenever you think of them because you’d be hard pressed to find a person that hadn’t seen at least one of his films, whether they knew it or not. Here’s a statement I don’t think is grandiose, Steven Spielberg IS cinema.
The genre of film that Spielberg sees a lot of his success in is the family genre. Hook is an undenied classic and even his last one, The Adventures of Tintin is a film that needs far more recognition than it gets. The one that always gets brought up in this conversation is E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, one that created such awe and wonder in a young Steve Stebbing and made me look to the sky for my own other worldly friend. Steven Spielberg seems to have a finger on the pulse of what will make an impact in the mind of the most imaginative and, with his new film The BFG, it is very obvious that it is something that hasn’t changed. In a movie fan like myself, I give a large sigh of relief that somethings never change and in his case, I hope they never do.
The BFG is based on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. It centers around Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), a curious and book smart girl with insomnia living in an orphanage in London. One night, Sophie gets a glimpse of something she wasn’t supposed to and it changes her life forever. She sees a giant (Mark Rylance) in the street in the middle of the night who also sees her. He reaches through the window, takes her and then runs through the country and into the magical land of the giants which looks like islands in the middle of the foggy oceans with lush greenery and high rock faces everywhere. Once they arrive at the giant’s intricate home nestled in a mountain, the giant tells Sophie that she’s to stay there forever.
During Sophie’s first day in the giant land, it’s revealed to her that the giant who took her is the smallest giant in the land, constantly bullied by the other nine giants of the land, led by Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement), who constantly berate their kind for being a “runt” and going against the giant way of life by choosing to be a vegetarian and not eating “human beans”. After the revelation of what the giant’s life is like in his world, Sophie begins to soften to him and the two start to form a bond of friendship, Sophie calling him BFG or Big Friendly Giant, and he begins to show her the wonders of his work, capturing and storing the dreams of everyone in the world.
Watching The BFG, I consistently felt like my jaw was on the floor with the pure exhilaration that this film is. Ruby Barnhill manages to skirt the usual child actress problems and encompasses our conduit into this film so well. Her performance is so earnest and plays with so much conviction with Rylance’s motion capture work that is my favorite onscreen work this year. With all complete honesty I can say that he should be up for a best actor award as I was totally astounded by him in this, showing why he’s already a multi time Tony Award winner and now Academy Award winner. He’s worth the admission alone.
Steven Spielberg is a man on top of a mountain of filmmakers that go stagnant at some point of their career. He moves like a well oiled machine along with his frequent collaborator Janusz Kaminski shooting the film and John Williams, who has composed all but two of his films. The adventurous feel of Spielberg is felt from the small moments of following Sophie through the halls of the orphanage to the big set pieces with the giants searching for her through the BFG’s workshop. Somehow with these films, Spielberg never fails to give us a sense of childlike glee and I will forever love him for that.
The BFG is one of those films that, even if it’s not appreciated now, it will be reevaluated over and over until it gets placed where it belongs, next to his other family adventures that are celebrated time and time again. To say this film is an underdog is completely insane to me but it already seems that way. I also feel the bittersweetness of this being the second pairing of Spielberg and writer Melissa Mathison, the screenwriter for E.T., who passed away shortly after completing this film. I think this is a nice send off for someone who left a noticeable mark in the cinematic world.
I feel that those families with young children who have yet to experience the magic of a Steven Spielberg film will find The BFG to be a story that captures the same type of magic that we’ve all experienced at that pivotal time in our life. His movies have such a huge reach that makes us all feel like we’re united in spirit for at least a two hour duration. It’s something that has always made Steven Spielberg’s work so endearing because as much as he’s making the stories that he wants to make, you know that he’s also making it for the people that have supported his work for fifty years. I love The BFG, a solid five out of five.