(Whilst approaching a grandfather clock) ‘It was the Witching Hour, when the Boogeyman comes out… when people go missing. The girls say the Witching Hour arrives at midnight. I think it comes at three in the morning, when I’m the only one awake. Like always. Like now.’ – Sophie in the opening scenes of director Steven Spielberg’s The BFG.
Let’s get this straight, and the title resolved, before we go any farther: Mark Rylance’s the B.F.G is the highlight of this film. Whether or not you’ve read the original Roald Dahl book of the same name, he is, and very deservedly so, the highlight of this film due to his emotiveness and the sympathy he evokes as the titular Big Friendly Giant.
With that in mind, let’s proceed with this review of director Steven Spielberg’s The B.F.G; please note, this review, like all other moving forward, contains a subjective appraisal of the film’s moral and act-by-act breakdown.
This film very much feels like a Spielberg film. The thing with those is, barring sneaking a peek on IMDb, you can never tell how they are Spielbergian. They just feel that way. That said, and in a more trend-based way as espoused by the likes of CineLinx.com and TIME Magazine, you can spot the strained (neo-)parental ties (Sophie is orphaned and, by her own admission, never gets along with her ward), there is the Spielberg face of awe and shock at least once, and, again, that feeling of uncynical wonder.
The screenplay, by the late Melissa Mathison of E.T: The Extra Terrestrial fame among other films, though it takes a while to kick in – especially vis-à-vis the subjective speculation that the film’s moral is standing up to bullies – it is still unrepetitive enough, in terms of plot points, to keep you watching with sufficient set-up early on, barring the newspaper articles, to be fluid.
The cast, with the aforementioned emphasis on Mark Rylance as the titular BFG, are generally very good with some supporting roles played to a degree of stereotype; Ruby Barnhill’s Sophie is the exception as she is generally very believable as the self-admittedly brave orphan. That is meant with far less edge than the prior sentence reads as.
The score, by John Williams of more fame than can be done justice here, accompanies the film and forewarns of its turns in a distinctly Williams-esque way while carrying influences from his prior work on the first two Home Alone films, Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and the first two Harry Potter films.
The cinematography, courtesy of director of photography and long-standing Spielberg collaborator, Janusz Kaminski uses some wide-angle shots to great effect when dealing with Giant Country’s landscape and works, to almost Ghostbusters-like effect, when seen in 3D. There aren’t many of his white light-meet-window shots like 2015’s Bridge of Spies, hardly any, but the cinematography is comparatively more restrained here anyways.
The BFG, largely the story of the relationship between Mark Rylance’s BFG and Ruby Barnhill’s Sophie, is worth watching for the dynamic between the two alone, if not only for the former’s performance. That you-can’t-pinpoint-in-but-irrefutably-know-it-is Spielbergian charm is on display and well worth the price of admission.
The cinematically gathered/inferred moral and carrying throughline of the story: always stand up to bullies
Act 1: Sophie is taken from the orphanage by, and after spotting and being spotted by, the BFG.
Act 2: Following a brief exposure to Giant Country, including the revelation-inducing Dream Tree, the BFG decides to take Sophie back to England.
Act 3: Determined not to be left behind in the world of man, Sophie jumps from the orphanage’s window and the BFG saves her, returning with her to Giant Country.
Act 4: Between being hunted by the bigger giants, Sophie spots a portrait of Queen Victoria in the BFG’s cave and a plan takes shape; the BFG reluctantly reveals himself to the queen when the time comes.
Act 5: the bigger giants are relocated to an unnamed island; Ruby lives with the queen and the BFG hears her calling out to him in Giant Country.
(While the opinions and observations cited above are those of the author, the following sources were used to fact-check the factual statements made: Cinelinx.com, Education.BlurtIt.com, EliteDaily.com, IMDb.com, TIME.com, WatershedOnline.ca)