The Watchers

The Watchers

Monday, 29 August 2016

Review: The BFG (UK Cert PG)

2016 is the centenary of Roald Dahl's birth so it's entirely apt that this year sees the release of an adaptation of one of his best-loved books: The BFG. A live-action version of Dahl's 1982 book has been in development for almost twenty-five years- there was a Cosgrove Hall animated version released on TV in 1989- but it's Steven Spielberg who has managed to get it onto the big screen.

It's perhaps no accident that one of the production companies logos that appears before the film is Amblin Entertainment - known for producing some of the best childrens' films of the 1980s (such as ET, The Goonies, *batteries not included and Who Framed Roger Rabbit). The tone of the film is reminiscent of some of Amblin's best films, which makes for a strangely nostalgic feel to the film.

The film follows the story of a young orphan girl called Sophie who, one night, comes across a giant walking the streets of London. Afraid that Sophie will tell the world about him, the giant grabs her and takes her off to Giant Country. Soon, Sophie realises that this giant is very different to the others- he's smaller and is bullied by the bigger giants, he doesn't eat humans (preferring to eat slimy vegetables known as snozzcumbers) and he likes to go collecting dreams. Sophie then decides she's going to call him the Big Friendly Giant- or BFG for short. Between them, they come up with a plan to get rid of the other giants but they're going to need some help- from none other than the Queen of England!

It's a combination of live action and motion capture, with some of the most beautiful visual effects you'll see in cinema this year and a truly warm and wonderful lead performance by Mark Rylance as the BFG.

Reuniting with his Bridge Of Spies director, Rylance puts in a lovely and very gentle performance as the BFG, handling the mangled form of speech like a pro- there's never a truer word spoken when he says 'what I says and what I means is two different things'- and providing a very believable empathy with Sophie. Similarly, Jemaine Clement is clearly having a ball as the villainous Fleshlumpeater, main antagonist and bully of the BFG (although I did at times think it may have been Sacha Baron Cohen).

Ruby Barnhill's performance as Sophie mostly eschews the annoying precocious child-actor cliches and- considering she would have been playing against a man in a motion capture suit- does well to convey the sense of size and scale. Penelope Wilton is mostly dignified as the Queen- the rather bizarre Blazing Saddles-esque fart scene notwithstanding-, and there's lovely support by Rafe Spall and Rebecca Hall as members of the Queen's household.

Visually, it's an absolute treat- and may even be worth catching in 3D if you can (although I saw it in 2D). The cinematography of Janusz Kaminski and the visual effects by Weta Digital are truly sublime; the BFG's foray into Dream Country is especially stunning. Even the dark, rainy, cobbled streets of early morning London have a real charm to them. John Williams' magical, whimsical and balletic score is the cherry on top of the cake.

Adaptations of Roald Dahl's books have, for me, been a bit patchy. However, The BFG is an absolute triumph. Gloriumptious, as the big man himself might say,

Rating: 4 out of 5


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