“Because I hears your lonely heart, in all the secret whisperings of the world.”
‘The BFG’, directed by Steven Spielberg in 2016 and based on a novel by Roald Dahl, is a fantasy adventure story for children. It starts in London, part-modern, part-Victorian and part-1980s. Sophie, an orphan played by Ruby Barnhill is snatched in the night by the BFG, played by Mark Rylance. He takes her to Giant Country where she’s kept to prevent her from revealing the secret of the BFG’s existence. The BFG turns out to be a gentle, vegetarian however, bullied by his even larger and far less gastronomically discriminatory clansmen. The story hops between Giant Country and London as Sophie and the BFG recruit the Queen and the British armed forces to help tackle the other giants. It’s a film that lives and dies by Rylance’s performance and the technical process capturing it through a computer. Fortunately, Rylance is the greatest actor currently working and every performance I’ve seen on stage (through filmed performances at the Globe) and screen (both television and film) seems effortless, almost improvised, but entirely distinctive and intelligently formed. The CGI doesn’t act as a barrier to this, his face is recognisably his and in to time you forget that you’re seeing an effect, almost as if Rylance has just put on a costume. The worlds of Dahl and the solid but magical direction of Spielberg are a perfect match. It’s easy to forget that Spielberg has now been directing consistently good, often great, movies for over forty years, almost rivalling Hitchcock for durability. Spielberg is a mobile, innovative director, but also a conservative. ‘The BFG’ is in many ways a traditional movie that is heightened by the performances, one of Spielberg’s popcorn films, but the way it is pitched and constructed is incredibly satisfying.
Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s got Mark Rylance in it, and to be honest I’d watch the sequel to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ if he was cast in it.