So, it’s almost the weekend again! That means you’ll finally have more time on your hands to go to the cinema and catch up on the new releases. Today’s film review is Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross, 2016, USA).
Captain Fantastic’s protagonist, Ben, terrifically played by The Lord of The Rings’ star Viggo Mortensen, has taken his six children away from the world’s consumerist and capitalistic regime. He has chosen to give them an isolated materialist-free life of pure survivalist mode amidst the forests, depicted in the film’s opening shot of pure greenery invading every inch of the frame. He makes sure to train them like Olympic athletes and teaches them to read, memorise and analyse philosophical books normal 15 year-olds would never touch.
The film starts off on an exciting note, until we learn that the children’s mother is awfully sick at the hospital, which may or may not have been caused by Ben’s drastic lifestyle decisions. Captain Fantastic thus visits this peculiar family’s life, who’s lived isolated for years, and tries to examine whether Ben is a hero or just a crazy paranoid man who may have ruined his family’s life.
Hero or Anti-Hero
One of the best things about this film is how Ben’s role oscillates between hero and anti-hero. As audiences, we start off the film sympathising with our quirky protagonist, whose core values seem kind and in a way, ethical. His decisions after all do stem from his values against consumerism and the superficiality that invades our world nowadays. However, as the story evolves, we watch the family falling apart due to his radical decisions. And as we learn more and more about his wife’s disease and how their lifestyle may have affected her negatively, we aren’t quite sure anymore as to our protagonist’s position in the film.
Moreover, what increases our suspicions towards Ben, is his late wife’s father who seems to be absolutely convinced that Viggo was the one who has caused her illness and consequential death. At the beginning, the father seems quite harsh on Ben. So you’d think the film falls into two categories: Consumerism, religion, Ben’s father-in-law and all that is wrong with the world, against Ben’s isolated consumerist-free life. However, the two sets become blurry and begin to blend when we learn that the grandfather only wants his grandchildren’s well-being, and that maybe going against the current order of the world might be harmful to the kids. The character built in Captain Fantastic is definitely worth analysing and discussing.
Another great thing about Captain Fantastic is its tone. Although the story sounds rather blue and dramatic, the film plays with comedy too, lightning the whole feel of the film. Having grown up completely isolated from the world, the kids’ attitude towards others can only make the audience laugh. For instance, when Bo, the eldest son, meets a girl and manages to land his first kiss, he thinks that’s love and proposes to marry her. Or, when their cousins mention ‘Nike’, and the children seem to think they’re talking about the goddess of Victory. The film’s full of funny moments that also comment on the world we live in.
This review doesn’t actually do the film justice! There’s so much more to Captain Fantastic that you’d have to go see for yourself. The powerful, emotional film is definitely one of 2016’s greatest releases.
Runtime: 1h 58min
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance