The BFG (PG)
Running time 1hr 57 min
STEVEN Spielberg’s touch is magical. With getting on for 60 years in the business, the (almost) septuagenarian film talent’s legacy speaks for itself.
It might seem surprising that he’s turned his directing hand to children’s fiction at this stage in his career – in latter years he’s tackled adult fare like Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, Munich, Lincoln and Bridge of Spies – but he’s made an incredible job of transferring Roald Dahl’s much-loved story The BFG from page to screen.
A story he read to his first child shortly after it was first published, he came to the book having never previously envisaged it as a movie. But what a movie it makes.
Young Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is an orphan plagued by insomnia. One night, when she’s troubled again by sleeplessness, curiosity gets the better of her and she catches sight of a giant outside her dormitory window. Problem is, he’s also seen her, and he promptly snatches her as she’s cowering beneath a blanket on her bed. He transports her to Giant Country, where he lives with a group of child-eating giants.
But this is the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance). He exists on a diet of bitter snozzcumbers and busies himself with catching dreams to give to people while they sleep. It’s not much, but he does what he can to make up for the sins of his fellow giants, who make it their business to snatch sleeping children from their beds at night and eat them. Unable to return Sophie to where she came from for fear of her telling everyone about him and his kind, he tells her – in his endearingly mixed-up way – that she must stay with him for the rest of her days. A lonely and neglected child, she comes to value the giant – whose name she abbreviates to the BFG – and his friendship, and vice versa. Just as she teaches him to stand up to the bullying giants, he teaches her the value of companionship and the two hatch a plan together to put a stop to the giants’ grisly ways.
Spielberg’s version of Dahl’s story largely stays true to its origins, and it’s all the better for it. With a focus on the relationship between Sophie and her much larger friend, casting is key and stage actor Mark Rylance brings his unparalleled brilliance to the motion-capture role of the BFG, while newcomer Ruby Barnhill shines as the young Sophie.
A lovingly-scribed screenplay ensures dialogue retains the wonder and lyricism of Dahl’s original novel – Rylance’s BFG spews splendiferous wordage, just as you would want and expect. Without excessive focus on action, The BFG is as beautifully weighted as it is touching. Spielberg’s arguably long overdue adaptation of this magical story is a truly wonderful film, exquisitely realised – the very essence of cinematic magic.