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Friday, February 17, 2017

Movie Review: CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (2016)

captain-fantastic-movie-review

Director: Matt Ross
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Frank Langella, Ann Dowd
Runtime: 118 min
Rating: R for language and brief graphic nudity
Purchasing Links: DVDc, Blu-ray

Read the review after the jump.


CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (2016)

Review by Popa Razvan


The dramedy "Captain Fantastic" is the second feature film directorial effort for actor Matt Ross ("Big Love") and it's a deep and often funny exploration of family values in modern civilization.

The film introduces us to Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his band of merry children as they live their life in the woods, away from the comforts of civilization. They grow or hunt their own food, they exercise each day, they train in the arts of self-defense, and the kids are also homeschooled by Ben, who imposes a strict reading discipline. They are indeed well-educated and efficient survivalists, free from the evils of technology and capitalism. They could definitely give Bear Grylls a run for his money. When their mother, who was committed to a hospital for bipolar disorder, commits suicide, Ben takes the kids on a trip across the country to make sure that his wife's parents don't bury her, because in her Last Will and Testament she asked to be cremated, and her ashes dispersed in a most unusual manner that I will not ruin for you here.


Captain Fantastic Cast Photo


Ross, who also wrote the script, crafts a special kind of road trip movie. On the one hand we see the family act essentially as fish out of water, their behavior radically different from the norms of our society. Despite the fact that this kind of comedy has been done before, it's handled in an original way. Most of the humor comes from the way that Ben's ideological upbringing of his kids collides with the modern society we are all familiar with. The drama comes from the lessons Ben learns over the course of this trip, which will make him seriously question if his chosen path is the right one for his children. His journey will become one of doubt and sacrifice.

On the other hand, the film also observes the coming-of-age story of Bodevan (George MacKay), the eldest son. He hides a bunch of college acceptance letters from his father, unsure whether to tell him or not, because his actions are nothing short of betrayal. He is a young adult, unsure of his place in the world, and his contact with other people leads to the most awkward scenes you will ever witness. It's hearbreaking to see him crushed by everything he's been taught by his father, and struggling to adapt to a new and unfamiliar reality. His difficult journey is figuring out a way to enter the world as an outsider.

The cinematography is unexpectedly beautiful, especially in scenes that capture natural landscapes. For an indie film, that's going above and beyond the call of duty and it makes for a gorgeous looking movie. As far as humor goes, the film has a ton of it, and it usually hits more than it misses (and it does miss at times). Some of it is not entirely fresh, but Ross finds a thoughtful way to cut through the cliches and familiar structure and focus on what's important, the family's unique dynamic and how their contact with a relatively unknown world changes and shapes them.


Captain Fantastic Viggo Mortensen


Of course, the film is not without its problems. Some might find the ending to be a much too facile resolution, and some moments might lack the impact they required. However, I found after much soul searching that I can forgive these particular missteps, even if they will be reflected in my final score.

None of this would work, however, without the amazing ensemble cast. Mortensen earned a well deserved Academy Award nomination for his role, and he leads into action an amazing cast of young actors. MacKay in particular is brilliant as Bodevan. Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Frank Langella and Ann Dowd are also great in their brief supporting roles.

"Captain Fantastic" is a film that could have settled for simple comedy, but instead delivers a profoundly thought-provoking experience. Don't turn this one down thinking it's just another quirky indie. It's so much more.

TRAILER





THE VERDICT

THE GOOD:
  • Excellent ensemble cast spearheaded by Viggo Mortensen's career-best performance.
  • Thought-provoking and funny
  • Director Matt Ross cleverly avoids trappings and mistakes he could have made
  • Surprisingly beautiful cinematography

THE BAD:
  • Occasional narrative missteps


ENTERTAINMENT FACTOR SCORE: 90%



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