In The BFG, a young girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is whisked away from her prison-like orphanage in the middle of the night by a giant (Mark Rylance). A Big Friendly Giant (an admittedly redundant name). The BFG takes Sophie to Giant Country, where he must hide her away from the other giants who aim to eat her.
The production design is the first noticeable facet of the film. The juxtaposition of set design between the luminous city streets and the wooded jungle abode of the BFG is clear, but one is not favored stylistically over the other. Both contain distinct personalities and life.
Visually, the film is stunning. The effects work on the giants and the lush rural landscape of Giant Country share the magical fancy of the film’s subject matter.
Steven Spielberg’s directorial touch has light and perspective being used to perfect effect. Perspective in particular is used wonderfully. Shots manipulate the size of objects in fascinating ways.
Additionally of note is the sound design of the film. First evidenced by the slicing of a giant’s blade against vegetable and table, the sound mixing is careful and pleasing to the ear. For such a fundamental element of the film, you would be surprised how often films do sound poorly.
The film makes good use of Dahl’s made-up giant slang, which makes for a jubilant performance from Rylance, who steals the show. The young Barnhill, on the other hand, has some difficulty early on with the script’s diction. Although, on the whole, she does well as our lead. Jemaine Clement is also delightful as the dim-witted and parroting head of the giants. His introduction into the film is one of the funniest scenes in the movie.
Attention to detail in prop mise-en-scene such as newspapers and the BFG’s dream jars makes for many a fun easter egg to be found, adding all the more in each shot for attention to be drawn to. Every scene inside the BFG’s hideaway feels new and engaging given the sheer amount of stuff packed into the small space.
The BFG brings a level of fantastical whimsy and heartwarming that is surprisingly hard to find in children’s movies these days. Spielberg’s added craft is just a bonus that has the power to prime children for a greater love and understanding of cinema as an art form. While the plot and pacing starts to spin its wheels near the end, it is on the whole a perfect film for families to enjoy.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)