Title: Captain Fantastic
MPAA: Rated R for language and brief graphic nudity.
Director: Matt Ross
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler
Synopsis: Ben Cash and his six children live deep in the wilderness of Washington state. Isolated from society, Ben devotes his existence to raising his children — educating them to think critically, training them to be physically fit and athletic, and guiding them in the wild without technology. After a tragedy in the family occurs, Ben must take his sheltered offspring into the outside world for the first time.
Captain Fantastic is the second film directed by Matt Ross and by far his best. This is a suburb independent film that offers an original story with unique characters. The best thing I can say about this film is how important it is in today’s society. Ben Cash, played by Viggo Mortensen, is pretty much against everything that is ruining our society today. He has a very unique way of caring and nurturing his children that could be frowned upon or easily looked down upon. Having his children live in the forest, away from other people, and not allowing them to use any technology or eat any processed foods is very harsh, but it kind of makes sense why he would do it. The overuse of technology and overeating are two huge problems in our society today, and having his children steer away from that makes sense and is good for them. I think it is very important for children to watch this film, because they are growing up in a modern society where Pokemon Go is taking over their lives, and they are constantly looking down on their phones instead of interacting with family members or enjoying the outdoors. I am guilty for using technology too much, and I think most people are, but this film gives you a different outlook on how you should live your life. There is a song by Passenger called “Scare Away the Dark”, that perfectly sums up what I am saying, and reminds me a lot of this film. But even more than this is a story about a father and the obstacles he has to get through to remain close with his family.
Viggo Mortensen gives a great performance in this film as he normally does. He really looks the part as the free-spirited father and has great chemistry with pretty much all of the children in the film. Out of all the children, the one that gave the best performance was George MacKay (the oldest son). I thought he was fantastic, and out of all the children, acted most realistically when interacting with normal, everyday people. The timid, nervous look that he had around people was absolutely perfect and really gave his character extra depth. These children have been living in the wilderness all their lives, so it only makes sense that they would act very abnormally around other people, because they have never had to talk to anyone else but their family. Not only were a lot of the performances great, but the film was incredibly shot as well.
A lot of the shots were absolutely breathtaking, and as someone who loves to travel out in the west and go hiking, I absolutely adored the cinematography that was displayed. From the very first shot onwards, the film gave a great feel for the setting taken place, and just how beautiful nature can be. This film takes place in Washington State, and really immerses viewers and makes them respect just how beautiful the landscapes, mountains, and waterfalls can be. As someone who loves the outdoors, I really enjoyed this film, and I think a lot of people who love to hike, camp, or climb can as well.
As much as I loved the cinematography and unique characters in this film, I couldn’t ignore some of the minor flaws taken place. First of all, as this film contains 7 main characters, including six children, about half of them are pretty forgettable. This film struggled in giving each character a big moment or something unique to remember them by. The film was at its best when all of them were interacting together, but only about maybe three of the children had a big moment in the film. One film that did this absolutely perfect was Little Miss Sunshine. Little Miss Sunshine is a film that contained a bunch of main characters, but all of them were memorable and had a specific trait that made them stand out. Another problem I had was the overall plot structure for the film. The plot was pretty choppy at times, and didn’t have a perfect flow to it. Even though I thought the story was good and the dialogue spoken by the characters was wonderful, there were definitely maybe one or two scenes that could have been taken out, including one sequence where the oldest son meets a girl at a campground. Other than that, I thought Captain Fantastic was a pretty solid film.
Overall, this film is one of the better independent films of 2016, which is superbly shot, and has some great performances. Viggo Mortensen and George Mackay were easily the standouts and were most definitely the two most memorable out of the family. This film has a basic plot structure with maybe one or two scenes that could have been edited better or removed all together, but didn’t necessarily ruin the entire film for me. This film is very heartwarming and uplifting that not only can be very sad at times, but also very humorous. Probably the funniest scene is an awkward dinner table scene that is one of the better ones I have seen on film. People that love the outdoors will respect the cinematography and those that like a good independent film will enjoy this even more. This film has a great message of not having to rely on the everyday social norms and how it’s ok to be different from everyone else. Instead of looking for fake Pokemon, go on a hike and look for real wild animals. I think that is very relevant and extremely important for our American culture today. My grade for this film is: