Oscure, original, but not quite fantastic.
Originality hasn’t been prominent in 2016’s cinematic landscape. We’ve had a lot of sequels, reboots, superhero movies (not that I’m complaining), but very few truly unique movies aside from the likes of The Neon Demon. For this reason Captain Fantastic has been on my watch-list for a while now.
Ben (Viggo Mortensen), a devoted, idealistic father, lives in the forrest with his children where he home-schools them and teaches them survival skills. However, their eden is interrupted by the death of his wife, which prompts a road trip to the funeral much against the wishes of her father (Frank Langella).
Captain Fantastic belongs to Mortensen, with a comeback performance that will warm your heart and rile you up. His character is fascinating, often seeming like he wants the best for his kids but continually making stupid decisions – such as buying them all hunting knives for “Noam Chomsky Day”.
As well as Mortensen however, there’s not a single cast member that doesn’t deserve praise. Frank Langella’s cold but ultimately right-minded character will likely sit differently with everyone who sees it – for me, I was on his side. But it’s the kids here, led by Bo (George McKay) that give Captain Fantastic that organic, family-unit feel. They’re an odd, oblivious bunch who’s misadventures and quirky personalities will make you giggle, but with an underlying sympathy.
Captain Fantastic is categorised as a comedy, but it’s not a laugh-out-loud sort of film. If I were to describe its tone in one short sentence, I would describe it as “a mixture of The Kings of Summer and Little Miss Sunshine, only with more black-humour and melancholy”.
Whilst watching the film, you’ll initially laugh at the quirkiness of Ben and his children. But when their romantic notions of ignoring conventions clash with the realities of every-day life, it becomes a bit troubling – except a cringey, hilarious scene where Bo tries to impress a girl.
It’s certainly a beautifully shot and, for the most part, well paced adventure, thanks to director Matt Ross and cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine. Unfortunately, the third act is overly long and optimistic. Ross’s heart was certainly in the right place, but I would have appreciated the edgier ending you may be expecting as the film draws closer to the credits.
To sum it up…
At the very least, Captain Fantastic should be praised for it’s originality. A tremendous cast, led by the charismatic Mortensen bring this poignant character piece to life. Plenty of themes are tackled, such as family and grief, but a poor ending keeps this film away from being an ‘indie classic’.
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Author: Cameron Frew