Review: The BFG

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You’re going to have to try really hard to not be swept away by this Beguiling Farting Gent.

One of the most wonderful and yet tragic facts surrounding this magical film is centred on its screenplay and its writer.


Melissa Mathison was handpicked by Mr.Spielberg for this project to bring something special to this Roald Dahl favourite. Her credentials?

She was the writer and an associate producer on ET. Once married to Harrison Ford, she lost her fight with cancer at the end of last year, after sprinkling her magic dust and dreams on BFG. Post ET her writing had not gained significant notoriety except for duties on Kundun and the Twilight Zone movie. Well she certainly left a legacy with the rest of team Spielberg in creating something splendiferous here.


Our lead character (Sophie) is played by the never over cute or precocious 12 year old Ruby Barnhill from Cheshire.

She represents a continued consistency and strength in child actors in big films like this. Often in big productions, the “kid” would so often play super cute for the camera, or just outright annoying as they try to own their part and launch their career.


There have been some dazzling performances from young actors and actresses over the years who can show range, maturity and nuance beyond there years. So much talent and they haven’t all been to RADA. Sophie is a fine example of this.


The film itself is mesmerising. A simple story set in a fantastical and dreamy world, leaping from an orphanage to a palace. We are enveloped almost immediately into Sophie’s story and then the folklore of these giants including our titular BFG.  


I’m pleased to say for the first time in a little while that the effects blend beautifully with the cinematography, drawing us into the tale, even 3D is a tool that complements proceedings here, rather than just being a standard add on. They serve the story perfectly, rather than existing to make things bigger and brasher. The 3D and visual wizardry never feel overused, or laboured. I think the last time I remember these elements coming together so well was the Life of Pi…


Spielberg is a master of pulling these elements into a healthy balance, and has his stalwart Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski painting the picture so perfectly for us.


So BFG, our own Mark Rylance is becoming increasingly a household name both here and across the pond. Having devoted his life and art up to relatively recently exclusively to the theatre circuit, he gained global acclaim for TV drama Wolf Hall, and achieved an Oscar for a supporting role in Spielberg’s’ last film Bridge of Spies. Like so many great director and actor combinations, when things click, and there is a mutual respect, we the audience are the benefactors. Rylance’s talent is to be able to act without looking like he is trying to act. He is a technical performer who makes it look like he’s improvising effortlessly. Rylance makes for a fabulous gentle giant, who will have had to stretch him skill set to learn acting in a new way, wired up and CGI’d. A million miles away from the theatre where he is most at home.  


Once we have settled in to following our leading two characters, we meet more giants who are hysterical and to be feared. The film leads us on to a final act where we are introduced to some very English actors; I don’t want to expand too much here as it would be giving too much away. All I will say is that it sets up a fantastical finale with laughs that would not have worked anywhere near as well in a different pair of hands. Pure childlike fun…


BFG is magical for open minded adults, as well as the children that Dahl was originally writing for. Pure escapism as we are swept away by a fantastical story and characters, and a world and dreams that we are so magnificently welcomed into by a team of visual magicians. Spielberg has done it again with capturing our imaginations, and rediscovering those elements that won are hearts with ET all those years ago.