Film: The BFG; Director: Steven Spielberg; Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jermaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader; Rating: ***1/2
Based on the 1982 novel of the same name authored by Roald Dahl, The BFG, a fantasy adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, is an orphan’s story.
The narration begins in a very fairy tale manner with the camera smoothly panning over the Thames capturing the London Bridge, the Houses of Parliament. It further zooms onto the cobbled streets of a bygone era of London and settles on an orphanage where Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) lives.
One evening, restless, due to lack of sleep, Sophie peers out of her window beyond her curtains and encounters something she never knew existed — a giant (Mark Rylance).
Before she could comprehend anything, she finds herself plucked from her bed and whisked away to Giant Country.
After initially being apprehensive of the giant, she realises that he is actually a gentle soft-hearted soul, who has kidnapped her to protect his anonymity. She befriends him and fondly calls him “Big Friendly Giant”.
Soon she gathers that he is a loner who catches and bottles dreams.
Excited with his new friend, the Big Friendly Giant teaches her to hear “all the secret whisperings of the world” and introduces her to his land of dreams, a magical place with glowing trees and starlit skies.
But soon enough, she realises that her timid friend is bullied by his larger and more aggressive, bloodthirsty brethren, when her presence attracts their attention.
She nudges him to stand up for himself, he declines. Left with no other option, Sophie and the BFG formulate a plan to get rid of them, for good.
The screenplay by Melissa Mathison, who had earlier written ET for Spielberg, effectively puts Spielberg’s stamp all over the screen. The opening sequence alone on how the giant manages to hide while prowling the city at night is one of the film’s highlights.
Also, 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.
With a combination of Computer Generated Images and special 3D effects, Mark Rylance delivers a brilliant performance as the BFG. He captures the emotions and sensitivity of the character without being over-dramatic. In fact it is an absolute joy to watch him perform.
And the same goes for Ruby Barnhill who essays Sophie. She exhibits amazement and joy with equal fervour of innocence and strength. Watching her is an added delight.
Jermaine Clement is effective, in a small role as the hungry, evil and bloodthirsty Giant, Fleshlumpeater. And, Penelope Wilton as the Queen is a slight disappointment.
Visually the film is strewn with striking images that will enthral you. As is often the case with Spielberg’s fantasies, it is quite a spectacle.
Overall, The BFG, despite a few minor issues, is an escapist film with a genuine and playful heart which keeps you entertained.