Wednesday, December 14, 2016


After being forced to leave the forests of the Pacific Northwest where Ben (Viggo Mortensen), a devoted father, who raises his six children with a rigorous physical and intellectual education away from the society they respect but deem corrupt, the whole family is confronted with the world which brings in each of them a different change in their perspective.

Captain Fantastic is a film that reminded me of why people make movies, why we go to the cinema, and why we love to be carried away with beautiful stories. This feature is great. It is gut-wrenchingly emotional, immensely morally complicated, and touchingly inspiring.

Viggo Mortensen shows us once again why he is simply one of the greatest actors ever to live by taking on this gargantuan role and keeping the whole film on his shoulders by doing so. The ways in which all of this could fall apart immediately are infinite, but there is something in Mortensen’s method that makes it come alive as vivid as possible. You believe in everyone of these characters. They are distinguishable, they are alive, they feel so realistic it is overwhelming.

This is one of those films where I simply did not want to leave these characters behind, I only wanted to keep spending time in their company. The dynamic that is established with this family is so well realized in everyone of its aspects you are simply absorbed by it. The liveliness of the characters takes you over and their motivations are ever so clear. The empathy you get to have with each one of these people is moving, and thanks to some smart decisions by Ross early on that might not convince you immediately, the pay offs you get to have by the end hit you with a train of emotions that had me definitely teary in the theater.

The immense moral complexity the film faces is key to the success of each character dynamic that is developed. The reason you care so much is because the film is making bold and valid statements and then challenging them. It is so successful exactly because it does not go easy on any of the issues faced. It wants to raise every point of view and give everyone ups and downs and that is something that manages to take the audience through an emotional journey that touches upon the widest array possible. There are big, genuine laughs from the film and incredibly tough dramatic moments and they all fade into one another seamlessly because of the rich and unique characters we go along with in this journey.

There are touches of brilliance scattered around every scene in the film. Subtle things that aren’t necessarily there to be picked up, but that enrich this world with some real depth and give it believability. Furthermore, there are real flaws to all of these people and, whilst some may have more than others, the film analyzes all of them and. thanks to that, both we and the characters manage to grow in the most complete and touching way. Then, exactly because of the moral complexity of the situation we manage also to get moments of explosive excitement on the other end of the spectrum where we are rooting for the characters so hard to succeed in their intent it becomes an edge-of-your-seat experience.

The cast is stunning in this film. Everyone is playing their role brilliantly. From Frank Langella who manages to give an unpleasant old granddad the depth to be a sympathetic character, to Annalise Basso who has been a great up and coming actress and graces us with yet another majestic performance. She stood out in a cast of youngsters that still deserves a standing ovation for their dynamic, lively, and touching work. Each one of the kids manages to have a beautiful arc and the collection of all of them with Mortensen’s character made for an emotional journey that was as moving and reflective as anything I’ve seen this year.

There are a couple of little flaws in the film: I have to admit that whilst the vast majority the style does not eclipse the substance, and actually elevates it in its own beautiful ways, there were times where the classic indie-feel of the documentary hand-held style camera combined with the slightly clich├ęd score got on the way of the story. Moreover, towards the resolution of the film, in the third act, whilst as beautiful as they are and as poetic as they are, there were a couple of narrative leaps, which I won’t spoil, that rushed some emotional beats just a little too quickly.

Take that away and what you are left with is a profoundly moving picture that inspired me deeply and made me think as much as feel.

James' Score: 8/10

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