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Sarath Ramesh Kuniyl
Sarath Ramesh Kuniyl


Return of the giants

  • Although a well-made film, The BFG suffers from unmet great expectations that accompany a legendary name like Steven Spielberg.

Likeable is a word you wouldn't normally associate with a giant, even in the world of fiction. The half-giant Hagrid and his full-giant brother Gwarp who trundled into our hearts in the Harry Potter series are exceptions. However, long before they graced our libraries and the silver screen, British writer Roald Dahl ushered in an affable, old giant into our lives through Danny, the Champion of the World in 1975. Seven years later, Dahl, one of the best storytellers of all time, placed him firmly on our book shelves, through The BFG (The Big Friendly Giant).

Just when we thought it was gathering dust there, Steven Spielberg, one of the 'giants' in Hollywood, decided to rouse the other likeable giant from his gentle slumber. And, thus, The BFG the film was born in 2016. (There was an animated TV series, though, in 1989.)

The years went by might have left the tale untouched, but with a wizard like Spielberg in the picture, can the wizardry be far behind? The result is a breathtaking and seamless amalgamation of reality and fiction. We have the wrinkled yet amiable giant (Mark Rylance) galloping around the cobbled streets of London at night, with a trumpet and a weather-beaten suitcase in hand, blowing dreams into the minds of the people. He shouldn't be seen. But he is.

The culprit is an insomniac orphan girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), who leads a wretched life in an orphanage. So, the giant has no option but to carry off the child to his home in faraway Giant Country, where he lives alone. Soon, Sophie gets over her fear and forges an emotional bond with the veggy giant, who is just as lonely and melancholic as her.

But, expectedly, not all giants are like the BFG. His “human bean”-eating brothers—who are bigger and meaner—led by Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) treat him like a punch bag and are always looking to lay their hands on humans. How the little girl and the old giant take on the villains, with the help of—hold your breath—Queen Elizabeth II (Penelope Wilton), forms the rest of the plot.

It is true that motion-capture technology makes the giant appear more realistic and his emotions are in the right place, but without Rylance's 'human-bean' touch, it wouldn't have been half as good. Having won an Oscar for the best actor in a supporting role in Spielberg's Bridge of Spies last year, the enigmatic actor has done his reputation no harm in The BFG, with his “squiggly” English and mannerisms.

Spielberg, along with cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and editor Michael Kahn, who were also part of Bridge of Spies, has brought the Giant Country and the Dream Country to life brilliantly. The scene where the giant and Sophie go dream-catching is stuff dreams are made of. So is the giant's house where the dreams, including “I is naked at work”, which is my worst one, are stored in labelled glass jars.

What the film lacks severely is excitement. Animation films like Inside Out and Spielberg's own The Adventures of Tintin, for instance, had a thrilling screenplay and a gripping storyline. The BFG's screenplay by late Melissa Mathison, cannot be faulted though, since the story itself is so simple. The visuals might be stunning but there are hardly any wow moments in the story. Humour, too, finds a place in the narrative, which is stretched over two hours, like the breakfast scene at the Buckingham Palace. But they are few and far between.

Although a well-made film, The BFG suffers from unmet great expectations that accompany a legendary name like Steven Spielberg.

Film: The BFG
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement
Rating: 3.5/5

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The Week

Topics : #Hollywood | #review

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