By: Nick Askam
Captain Fantastic is a comedy/ drama about this unique family. Led by their father (Viggo Mortenson), they must travel out of their home in the forest in the Pacific Northwest to go to their mother’s (Trin Miller) funeral. Their kids are learning at their own pace about philosophy, critical thinking, and surviving in the wilderness. How will they adapt to the everyday life? All the kids are facing their own problems as they leave their homes. Bodevan (George MacKay) is deciding if he needs to go to college. Kielyr (Samantha Isler) and Vespyr (Annalise Basso) are deciding how to live in this new world. Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton) is deciding if he’s weird and needs to live somewhere else. Zaja (Shree Crooks) and Nai (Charlie Shotwell) are just learning about the world.
This film has two acts to it. The first act is all about the kids and their father, Ben. The second half goes more into the intricacies of their situation and is more heartfelt. The first act is more comical and shows some of the odd ways that they do things out in the wild. The combination of the two is fascinating since there is no real three act structure. The unfortunate part of this film is that the first act is superior to the second which makes the film feel off balance and incomplete. The pacing towards the end got heavily condensed and the viewer can see that pretty easily.
The first half of this film is amazing. All the kids’ unique personalities come out and you can see all of them adapting to their home in the forest. They each possess different skills and have superior strength to the other kids. One of the best parts of the film is when Ben takes the kids to his sister’s (Kathryn Hahn) house and Zaja (one of the youngest) outsmarts her two sons (Elijah Stevenson & Teddy Van Ee) on the Bill of Rights. Not only does she have it memorized, but she can provide analysis on the situation. It was one of those moments where you can see director Matt Ross’ message coming across. He shows off the broken nature of the school system so eloquently. There was no line that was completely obvious and misplaced.
The second half of the film struggles as it tries quickly to form sincerity. I count the second half starting when Bodevan makes a move with this girl he just meets. It shifts the focus from the kids being intellectual savants to being cast-out weirdos. It also shifts the blame of the mom’s death to Ben. Ben, who has acted like a hero this whole film, now becomes the villain. It shapes the way that we see Ben. The death of his wife comes full circle as we learn about her problems and how he tried to fix it. We know the result, but we don’t want to believe it. We don’t want it to be true. The problem is that 45 minutes of action happens in 15 minutes, so it’s hard to relate to the problems until way after the film has concluded. I was happy that I was still thinking about the film, but I wish it would’ve gone on for a bit longer.
Viggo Mortenson is fantastic (no pun intended) in this film. He leads the film and he has no problem being the center of attention. His performance was organic and genuine. I was so surprised by how much I loved him in this film. He truly commands the film and acts like a captain (again no pun intended). I would watch an entire TV show with this cast because of how well they connected.
Overall, I would highly recommend this film. I think it has heart and it has guts. It says things that others don’t want to talk about or mention. It attacks the school system, but more importantly, it attacks the way we think and I think that’s the greatest message of all. It inspires you to be challenged and that’s a feeling that not many movies can give.