REVIEW: Captain Fantastic (2016)

Captain Fantastic Poster - Blue
Release Poster – Bleecker Street

The following is a review of Matt Ross’s Captain Fantastic.

“Power to the people. Stick it to the man.” – In Matt Ross’s Captain Fantastic, Ben Cash (played by Viggo Mortensen), who lives in a forest with his wife and their six children, gets the news that his wife has taken her own life while she was at a hospital. Ben’s father-in-law (played by Frank Langella) is upset with Ben, and he feels that Ben is to blame for the loss of his daughter.

Despite warnings that his father-in-law will have him arrested, and seek custody of the children, if Ben attends his wife’s funeral, the Cash-family go on a road trip to New Mexico for the funeral. On their way, Ben’s children learn what it’s like to live in the real world, while the actions of their father are brought into question.

Captain Fantastic is a special little film that I really wish a lot of people would watch, but, as of right now, it looks like it won’t get to be appreciated by the general public in movie theaters. It is a quiet film that really works best when the characters are off-the-grid. Most of the actions in the second act are charming, and, as a whole, Captain Fantastic is just an amazing story about family, childhood, and parenting.

Now, let’s talk about why this film piqued my interest: Viggo Mortensen. Mortensen is almost always terrific, and Captain Fantastic is a great vehicle for him to really show off the lengths of his talent as an actor. Mortensen is at his best in the quiet scenes where his character sometimes must contemplate his family’s next move. Mortensen brings life to a well-rounded, earnest, and, at times, reasonable character.

His character’s children are incredibly well-cast, and I especially enjoyed George MacKay’s Bodevan who, alongside Shree Crooks’s Zaja, brings a lot of humor to the film. I did have a tough time differentiating the two youngest members of the family, but, most of the children, felt like distinctive characters. I wasn’t always happy with the actions of Frank Langella’s character, who, very late in the film, didn’t feel as stern towards Ben as he had been for most of Captain Fantastic. But I did enjoy Langella in the role.

Now, my one problem with Captain Fantastic is that while I thought the ending fit the rest of the film, it did feel a little bit too easy, sweet, and superficial. Captain Fantastic has a chance to really have a proper poignant ending, which might’ve catapulted the film up among the masterpieces of the independent family dramas, but when the film, just before the ending, feels fantastically hollow and bitter Ross, the writer-director, isn’t willing to lose hope for his characters.

9 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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