Directed By: Matt Ross
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, George Mackay
My Rating: 9 out of 10
While 2016 may have been disappointing so far in regards to some of those big budget blockbusters, if you look elsewhere you will be pleasantly surprised at the amount of original stories being told much better and with much less in their budgets. Captain Fantastic is one such story.
It's a beautifully poised piece of storytelling about a father who, fed up with normal society, decided to bring up his 6 kids in the wilderness, he impresses on to them a need for supreme intellect and physical strength and, without having X-men style powers, basically become the best of themselves in the process. Unfortunately due to a death in the family they are required to come away from their secluded lives and venture into “the real world.” A modern world, which they have been taught to despise for its many problems and wrong philosophies.
Written and directed by Matt Ross, known more for being in front of the camera, it effortlessly shows how good he could become behind it. The story itself is phenomenal and packed with meaning, it balances the superb use of social ideals with wit making this thoroughly entertaining despite its quite obvious serious tone on the look of modern family dynamics. It may sound dull, but believe me, this film has sharper comedy within it than most big budget comedy films and as an added bonus, it is also packed with plenty of substance. Unless you are emotionally stunted, you can't help but be gripped in by it. Add to that a coming of age love story, with eldest son Bo, and it leaves me without any doubt that this will be a story that, in some years, people will call a modern American classic.
If you thought that Matt had thrown all his concentration onto the story and forgot to make it look good in the process, then you couldn't be more wrong as it really has beautiful cinematography throughout, set early on in the wilderness of the pacific northwest of America it looked visually stunning without detracting from the actual action occurring on the screen. If felt so real because of how engaging he made each shot, which allowed you to fall in love with the story even more. Really if this is early on in Ross’ career, then I can't wait to see what else he can do, because this was as good as it gets. Clearly this fantastic story needed a fantastic captain and Viggo Mortensen delivers a brilliant performance as dad 'Ben'.
Almost arrogant with his social views but clearly with a deep love of wanting to provide the best he can for his children, you instantly connect with the character. His performance fills the screen with warmth and the portrayal is perfectly balanced between comedy and drama. The moments where he realises perhaps his methods have been flawed are truly mesmerising. His supporting cast, his 6 children, all played their part as well, but one completely shone above and that was George Mackay. I have recently seen and enjoyed George in the TV series “11.22.63” and thought he delivered then, but this was another level. He played eldest son 'Bo', who struggles with a difficult decision throughout. It's played so genuine but full of innocence and provides that superb coming of age tale around an already complex storyline, but never does it feel thrown in for the sake of it. It lies separate to the overall story and completely embedded within the script at the same time. George completely captivates as a boy growing into a man whilst also dealing with a complete change in his reality.
This film should more than provoke thought in ourselves as we look at a modern world which seems to increasingly champion money and greed over compassion and love. So hats off to Matt Ross as I think this film perfectly leads with delicate but quite important issues, never failing to entertain at the same time. The rather poignant catchphrase, “Stick it to the man, power to the people” will resonate with many in today's society too. I’m sure that's the line that people will remember this film for. It truly is a stunning story which was delivered by a quite stunning cast and I personally can't wait to see what Matt Ross is involved in next as this well and truly blew me away.