Thursday, May 4, 2017

Captain Fantastic

Viggo Mortensen, George Mackay,
Samantha Isler, Frank Langella

"He prepared Them for Everything
except the Outside world"


You will be wrong if you assume from its title that this is a superhero action filled movie. Instead, you will be mesmerized by this indie film with an unconventional plot with well developed characters that shall tug at your heartstrings. Well if you are so inclined because I admit not everyone can identify nor agree with the way these characters live their lives.

Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) lives in a deeply forested area (somewhere in the Pacific Northwest) where he has set up residence with his wife Leslie and their 6 children whose ages range from 6 to 18 years of age. Each morning, he awakens them with the sound of a bagpipe, then they have combat training where they are taught survival skills like hunting, weapons training, mountain climbing. 

During the evenings they all gather around a camp fire to read books about quantum physics and novels from radical thinkers like Dostoevsky, Karl Marx and Nabokov. The children are well versed both in survival skills as well as intellectually albeit their views are derived mostly from extremely left wing ideologies. Something which their parents have instilled in them since birth, no doubt. 

Early on, it is revealed that Leslie has been confined in some institution for bi-polar/depression by her parents who don't approve of her decision to live off the grid. Tragically, she kills herself so Ben must bring the grief stricken children out of the wilderness for her funeral. Something Ben is determined to stop as Leslie expressed in her will, she be cremated and her ashes flushed down the toilet. Yes, quite eccentric but that is how they roll. Heh!

The film turns into a long road trip to New Mexico where we see how difficult it is for the kids to adapt to the outside world where gadgets, pop culture and everything they have openly been taught to reject is now glaring at them up close and personal. 

Culture shock manifests itself and each of them react differently to their discovery of the 'real' world. It is an eye opener too for Ben as this experience raises troubling questions about his parenting style and how this alternative lifestyle might affect the future of the closely-knitted clan.

Viggo Mortensen, a very gifted actor who thinks out of the box and doesn't conform to the Hollywood type (which is a good thing, mind you!) is perfect as the authoritarian hippie whose radical views are extreme yet also has a soft heart when it comes to his family. The young actors portraying the children are very credible too. 

The cinematography is vibrant from the lush greenery of the wilderness to the colorful hippie-like attires of the characters. Running at almost 2 hours, it could benefit from some clever editing but its out-of-the-ordinary narrative was refreshing. Highly recommended!

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