“Because I Hears your Lonely Heart, in all the Secret Whisperings of the World.” – BFG (Film Review)

So having bombed rather cataclysmically in the USA Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s acclaimed book got its UK release and last weekend I got the chance to go and see whether this live action adaptation could live up to its source material.

And the result is, well, fine. In the hands of such an experienced blockbuster director there was very little threat of the film being a disaster of Pan-esque proportions (There’s no Garrett Hedlund chewing the scenery with an atrocious accent). Spielberg has a gift of creating visual flair in moments where other directors would struggle and his management over certain scenes in the BFG is reminiscent of his previous, better work. However there is undoubtedly a pacing issue in the BFG that grinds the action to a half on numerous occasions and the structure of the original novel has had a somewhat detrimental effect on this adaptation. As pleasing as the sequence that takes place in Buckingham Palace is within the film its timing within the overall narrative creates a feeling of disjointedness when watching the movie. Mark Rylance is atypically wonderful as the eponymous giant capturing his good natured silliness and mastering his peculiar vocal rhythms to great effect. Ruby Barnhill also delivers a terrific performance as the young heroine Sophie, a demanding, fierce, young orphan who witnesses the BFG late one night and is whisked away to giant country. The friendship between the BFG and Sophie is what carries the heart of the film and even though at times it feels like the developing relationship stalls repetitively for the benefit of the plot the eventual thematic pay-off is highly worthwhile and filled with pathos. There are also welcome performances from the ensemble including Penelope Wilton, Rafe Spall, Rebecca Hall and Jemaine Clement.

Janusz Kaminski does a great job in capturing the scale of the giant’s world and his work with Spielberg often makes the optical illusions truly spellbinding however the film’s reliance on CGI does at times make the artificiality of the landscapes rather underwhelming. Following John Favreau’s terrific Jungle Book adaptation earlier this year the bar for creating detailed virtual plateaus has been raised and Spielberg’s film, though at times beautiful, is undercut by its inability to be truly uniquely striking. John William’s music is suitable for the film without being outstanding and will be something of a footnote in his library of terrific work.

The BFG is a charming, fun frolic and an inoffensive translation of Roald Dahl’s novel. It will neither be remembered as a travesty or a classic, but a film of potential, occasional beauty, terrific performances and a handful of well derived laughs. Perhaps most noteworthy of all is Spielberg’s ability to turn flatulence into a form of terrific comedy in the films funniest sequence without it feeling cheap and immature (Well, too immature). All in all, a fun time for all ages. Just not one I’ll be revisiting anytime soon.

3/5

Dir: Steven Spielberg

Scr: Melissa Mathison

Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader 

Prd: Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer

DOP: Janusz Kaminski

Music: John Williams

Country: USA

Year: 2016

Run time: 117 mins

 

BFG is out now in UK cinemas.

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Eddie the Eagle

Following the success of his two previous efforts, Wild Bill and Sunshine on Leith, Dexter Fletcher directs this “feel good” biopic of notorious British ski jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, with Matthew Vaughn producing.

Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) is a young man who has spent his entire life dreaming to be an Olympian. Having eventually settled on competing at downhill skiing in the Winter Olympics he is turned down by the British Olympic Association, but discovers he could have a chance of making it as a ski jumper instead. Along the way he meets former ski jumping athlete Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) and despite initially rocky beginning forms a partnership in attempting to fulfil his Olympic ambitions.

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First off Egerton and Jackman have a lot of chemistry together, and their scenes have a succinct, enjoyable rhythm both comically and in the films more dramatic moments. I was impressed with Egerton’s performance as Eddie, and felt he accomplished ably within his role in the film. Whilst Jackman is an experienced and charismatic screen veteran on point and at times enjoyable and humorous. However, yes I’m sorry there is a however, pretty much everything else about Eddie the Eagle felt somewhat underwhelming. I understand the presence of cliché and formula within filmmaking and that when used effectively they can create a narrative structure within which a film can build upon and develop into something unique to itself, but an over allowance of such can create a sense of uninspiring familiarity.

No one should have any business not enjoying a film about a man called Eddie the Eagle, an underdog, rising above his comrades by fighting for his right to be an Olympian, to be recognised for his attributes. Personally I love that kind of stuff, sign me up. Rocky? I love it. The Karate Kid? Must have seen it fifty times. Rudy? Tear jerking stuff. Eddie the Eagle? It comes across as shallow and formulaic. Like a check list of things needed to make a film about a sporting underdog. The real issue underlining this, well, have you heard of a film called Cool Runnings? I’m quite the fan. When I saw the poster I assumed Hugh Jackman was going to be the North American former pro who disgraced his own coach and now lives an introverted existence haunted by the guilt of what he did in the past, a bit like John Candy in Cool Runnings. Turns out I was right; though Candy was Canadian I suppose. What Cool Runnings had was an absurdist premise that was universally laughable. The challenge seemed greater, the film was funnier, and the execution was tearfully gratifying. It’s ideological consensus about the Olympics being an advent not of success in victory, but in teamwork, sportsmanship, and the struggles of competing itself were inspiring in 1993 and are still sort of now, twenty three years later, with Eddie the Eagle. Cool Runnings wasn’t without cliché or familiarity, but between the structure that these clichés created were interesting characters, great writing, and a swaggering reggae energy that gave the film a unique voice. Something Eddie the Eagle lacks.

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Eddie the Eagle isn’t dislikeable. It lands a couple of steady emotional punches, but it doesn’t swing with anything you wouldn’t expect. Perhaps it’s fitting that a biopic about Eddie the Eagle should be a likeable underachievement. It sticks the landing and gets on the board, but does little else. If you haven’t seen Cool Runnings then it could be worth checking out. Or even better just watch Cool Runnings and, like me, you’ll be singing songs about the Jamaican bobsled team.

** out of *****

Review cobbled together by Alexander Halsall