Christopher Nolan’s WWII drama, Dunkirk, has finally landed on these shores. We drafted our podcast host, Steve Norman, to write a few words on this “triumph in storytelling”.
“You is in giant country.”
While you lot were all worried about Ghostbusters ruining your childhoods, I had far bigger worries. I was crapping my pants that Steven Spielberg, a director I only really have a passing taste for, was about to actually ruin my childhood by remaking one of my favourite films from back in the day: The BFG.
But much like how that supernatural remake wasn’t aimed at me, I kinda thought that maybe this one wasn’t either, but still I thought I’d give it a shot. And much like Ghostbusters before it, not only did I love it, but I can’t wait to show it to my kid.
Orphan Sophie spends her sleepless nights wandering around the halls of the London orphanage she has known all her life. When her 3am excursions around the house mean she’s awake to investigate the noises outside, she discovers the unimaginable; a giant, roaming the streets of London. Things go a little pear-shaped when the giant grabs the young girl and takes her to the far away Giant Country where he lives.
Sophie and the giant soon become friends; and while he teaches her about his job, catching and storing dreams during the day and spreading them to children at night, she gets her hands dirty trying to help. But all is not smiles and happiness in Giant Country. It turns out that our Big Friendly Giant is in fact the runt of a rather large litter where both he and his house are subject to constant bullying from these enormous mounds of muscle that spend their nights hunting for children to eat! With the Giants wanting to eat Sophie, and with the BFG wanting to keep her safe, the pair must work together to keep each other safe.
Let’s start with something blindingly obvious: this is a kid’s film. It’s got production value – of course it has, it’s a Steven Spielberg film – and it’s got a $140 million budget. But at the end of the day, it’s a kid’s film based on a kid’s book and you should absolutely go into this the same way you would the latest Dreamworks or Disney animation. This isn’t like that time that Tim Burton made Alice in Wonderland look like a drunken acid trip, it’s a (relatively) faithful adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic book, aimed at kids – and it’s a load of fun.
At the heart of the film is Mark Rylance’s BFG who, for fans like me, gets the giant’s broken English down really well. His mannerisms too. OK, it’s a large amount of computer generated animation, but he just nails the part of the giant.
Just as important, or maybe more so, is twelve year old Ruby Barnhill in what I believe is her first feature film. She has set a very high bar for herself with her performance as Sophie, the brave orphan that befriends the giant. She looks scared when she’s supposed to and really convinces us that she likes spending her time with the BFG, especially considering that for a large portion of the time she must have been talking to nothing while she was making the film. She’s absolutely outstanding.
I sat and watched this film in a screening filled with kids that all loved their time with it. From the fantastical giant, who sounds daft when he talks, to the best fart joke pay-off I’ve seen in years; they loved every minute of it. Ok, I admit, the fart joke got me too! But as I’ve established plenty of times before, I’m basically a giant child with an unlimited card. It’s all about being able to sit yourself down and be a kid for a couple of hours, suspending your disbelief for a bit and actually imagining that maybe giants exist. I can’t wait to share it with my kid.