Adapting a literary giant
released 22 July PG | 117 minutes Director steven spielberg Cast Mark rylance, ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement
The BFG reunites Steven Spielberg with ET writer Melissa Mathison after 34 years. It was worth the wait – there’s boundless wonder to be found in this gloriumptious Roald Dahl adap.
After orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) catches the eye of a figure as tall as a house outside her window one night, she’s whisked away to Giant Country. Fortunately for Sophie, this giant (a mo-capped Mark Rylance) is friendly. The BFG can’t let Sophie return home for risk of revealing his kind, but it’s equally dangerous for Sophie to stay in Giant Country, where nine bloodthirsty man-eaters inch closer to sniffing her out. All the while the BFG continues his work – catching and distributing dreams.
Adapted with care and warmth by the late Mathison, the script is a delight. It tones down the darkness of Dahl’s prose, but it’s entirely faithful to the story. For well over an hour it’s almost entirely a two-hander, with the relationship between the BFG and Sophie hitting all the right notes. The film is in no rush, with languorous scenes where the two converse about Phizzwizards or Frobscottle. But it’s when the BFG makes it to Buckingham Palace that it soars, with a succession of hilarious sight gags as the BFG scoffs a gargantuan breakfast with the Queen.
The BFG is stunning to look at too, with gorgeous Victoriana production design in the England-set sequences, while abandoned Ferris wheels and colossal stone archways punctuate Giant Country’s rolling fields.
The only real disappointment is the other nine giants: not as grotesque as they are in the book, they’re oafish buffoons. The film also doesn’t strive for the thematic complexity of something like ET. But compared to the last bigscreen Dahl – Tim Burton’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory – this is in an entirely different league.
The 1989 animated version of The BFG (with David Jason) has just been reissued on Blu-ray. It comes with “free giant ears”!
Countryfile got interesting.