Director: Steven Spielberg Writers: Melissa Mathison (screenplay), Roald Dahl (book) Stars: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton
“A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.”
When I first heard that Steven Spielberg was set to direct my favourite childhood book I was filled with excitement. E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison would be adapting the book for the big screen and this seemed like a movie match made in heaven. When British acting powerhouse Mark Rylance was announced as playing the titular Big Friendly Giant I was sure this would be one of the films of the year. However, the end result left me feeling somewhat deflated as I was greeted with an overly-long and patchy affair.
Rylance is wonderful as the BFG, by turns eccentric, peculiar and warm, as you would expect from our hero with a heart of gold.
The visual effects are largely excellent, and had me wishing I had gone to see the 3D version (although the giants’ sizes seemed to change on a confusingly regular basis), to enjoy them to their full intent.
However the story itself is drawn out far further than it needs to be, and with a running time of nearly two hours I can imagine many children would be fidgeting in their seats. The scenes in Buckingham Palace in particular are unnecessarily long and ponderous, with some odd acting choices (long pauses between lines, looking off into the middle distance etc). Indeed the biggest obstacle to my enjoyment of the film was Ruby Barnhill’s turn, which was a little too acting-school-production-of-Annie in some scenes, with her cocked head perched in her hands and wide-eyed approach to the supposedly street-smart Sophie. I suspect these were all conscious directorial choices by Steven Spielberg however, which led to the whole film feeling laboured and old-fashioned, rather than the magical delight it could have been.
7 out of 10