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Movie Review: Captain Fantastic
Written by Spling   
Wednesday, 27 July 2016 10:03


Captain Fantastic is a bizarre clash of cultures. Raised in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father educates, imbues his values and trains his six kids to fend for themselves. Without a television and having to hunt for food, their cloistered Swiss Family Robinson style upbringing presents a number of challenges from societal integration to coping in a capitalist me-orientated America. Having extensive book knowledge makes them more than capable to think for themselves and much more adept than their peers, however, their inexperience renders them alien to their own country.

When their unstable mother is committed to a healthcare facility, they stay on in the forest, as their wise yet stubborn father tries to keep his children pure. Yet, they find themselves on a road trip using the family bus, Steve, which tests their abilities, their mission readiness for the real world and their own patience for folks deemed "normal".

Captain Fantastic is an eye-opening comedy drama, which essentially gives us an alien perspective on Western culture, contrasting the affects of a rural lifestyle and book smart education with those of our fast-paced, urban and dumbed-down societies. The results are deeply comical, compelling, thought-provoking and wildly entertaining as we venture forth with a family whose mother could've been Jodie Foster in Nell.

It's like the perfect blend of Into the Wild and Little Miss Sunshine. The good times wanderlust, spirit of adventure, political aspirations and return to nature from Into the Wild are present in Captain Fantastic. Both films even share elements such as the hippie roadies, the bus in the wild and the rebellious stick-it-to-the-man sentiment of Christopher McCandless. You even imagine scenes playing out quite perfectly against a similar soundtrack from Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. Little Miss Sunshine presents itself in the offbeat dark comedy, road trip dilemnas, family politics and spontaneous devil-may-care nature of their escapades.

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

"I let my kids decide what I meant by 'Sunday Best'."

Writer-director, Matt Ross, is obviously concerned with the environment and the state of disrepair the world finds itself in. His commentary is enjoyable, if sometimes biting, and makes some comical observations by simply contrasting a righteously harmonious and self-aware existence against the boxed in constraints of a life lived on auto pilot. There's a definite slant, which is tempered by flaws in both systems, yet able enough to get its point across without turning into a full-blown sermon on "what the world needs now".

Beyond it's quirky appeal and timely exploration, it's underwritten by a talented cast headlined by Viggo Mortensen as Ben, George Mackay as Bo and Frank Langella as Jack. Mortensen is in his element as the self-made Captain Fantastic, who seems to have an answer for everything and the final word on everything else. He's in great shape and delivers a spirited and whole-hearted performance full of fire. His second-in-command is Mackay, whose role as a budding squire to his father echoes the family values coming face-to-face with the tangible alienation of their choices. Then, Frank Langella brings his considerable presence to represent good old-fashioned American values as the long arm of the father-in-law.

This is a red-blooded jaunt that continues to surprise with its smart writing, sharp performances and timely storytelling. It's infotainment in full swing, delivering experiential education through well-crafted drama and poignant comedy. The concept is refreshing, giving Captain Fantastic a bold and original flavour, even though it comes together as if fashioned by great ideas and themes from other contemporary films.

The bottom line: Spirited


Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 July 2016 10:12