Magazine article Screen International

'The BFG': Cannes Review

Magazine article Screen International

'The BFG': Cannes Review

Article excerpt

Dir: Steven Spielberg. US. 2016. 115mins

When you think about it, Steven Spielberg and the BFG are in the same line of work: the cultivation and curation of a culture's dreams. So it's no surprise that the acclaimed filmmaker's adaptation of the Roald Dahl book proves to be a comfortable fit. More a technical triumph than a full-bodied emotional experience comparable to the likes of E.T., this family film has plenty of whimsy and heart, and is aided enormously by Oscar-winner Mark Rylance's soulful, sad performance as the Big Friendly Giant. But if The BFG isn't quite transcendent, it's a reminder that Spielberg, at 69, can still weave a world and tap into our collective unconscious - especially our need to be part of a family.

Premiering at Cannes, The BFG will open across much of the globe by July 1. Considering how potent another Disney mixture of live-action and motion-capture performances, The Jungle Book, has been, it's easy to see this movie being just as alluring to children and their parents. Without the benefit of marquee movie stars, The BFG will have to make do with audience awareness of Spielberg and Dahl - and that should be more than sufficient compensation.

Set in the 1980s, The BFG stars newcomer Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, a London orphan who late one night hears stirring outside her window. To her amazement, she spots a kindly giant she dubs the BFG (voiced by Rylance, who won his Oscar for Spielberg's Bridge Of Spies). Frightened of being detected, he kidnaps Sophie and takes her to the land of giants, where she quickly learns that there are bigger, meaner giants who would like nothing more than to eat her.

After making back-to-back historical period dramas (Lincoln, Bridge Of Spies), Spielberg returns to the land of family movies for The BFG, although in temperament this is closer to the child-friendly exploits of The Adventures Of Tintin than the more somber, consciously old-fashioned tone of War Horse. Benefiting from one of longtime composer John Williams' most moving scores in recent years, the director seeks to create a magical realm in which the plucky Sophie and the good-hearted, lumbering BFG find in each other a fellow outcast craving a connection.

Barnhill doesn't always rise above adorable-kid mannerisms, but her lack of poise is offset by Rylance's warm, supremely assured counterbalance. …

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