Viggo Mortensen may still be best known for playing noble leader Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but since the final instalment hit cinemas in 2003 (yes really!), Viggo has showed audiences there’s a lot more to him than just long hair and brooding good looks. And he once again delivers in Captain Fantastic.
Based around a hippy family who live in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, Viggo plays devoted dad Ben raising his brood of six with wife Leslie (Trin Miller). The children aren’t like the rest of the videogame playing, selfie taking kids of modern day America; instead of sitting inside watching TV, these six know how to skin animals, grow their own food and deal with injuries. As well as being able to fend for themselves, the children are also bright and curious, with oldest Bo (George MacKay) even being accepted into some of the U.S.’s most prestigious colleges (with the secret help of his mum).
Despite living in their own unique bubble, the family can’t fight nature, and it quickly becomes apparent that all isn’t as it seems. Former lawyer Lesley suffers severely with bipolar disorder, which has led Ben to seek help from the outside world, and he puts her in a hospital to try and get better. Though Ben doesn’t believe in Western medicine, he does everything he can to help Leslie get through her tough time, but life comes crashing down when Leslie commits suicide while in the medical institute.
Dealing with their loss is hard enough, but added to their grief is Leslie’s father Jack (Frank Langella), who not only blames Ben for his daughter’s death, but also condemns his parenting skills. Cue a family battle that extends beyond the usual realms of warring relatives.
Mortensen gives this performance his all, and pulls off a charismatic and warm turn as the unconventional father trying to do his best for his family. The film is littered with heart warming, heart breaking and funny moments, and a lot of them come courtesy of the Oscar-nominated actor.
British actor MacKay puts in another solid turn, showing us his funny side with Bo’s first cringe-inducing interaction with the fairer sex. The part adds to MacKay’s small but impressive list of stellar performances. His star is only going to continue rising, and it’s a pleasure watching the actor do his thing before he become a bona fide Hollywood heavyweight.
A lot of the movie’s success is thanks to the excellent young ensemble cast, with Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks and Charlie Shotwell shining in their forest-dwelling roles.
Aside from the acting, the shots of the great outdoors are simply breathtaking, and the cinematography will have you questioning if maybe living off the land is really the most ideal way to live.
Writer and director Matt Ross brings heart, soul and humor to this touching flick, and while it falters somewhat at the very last hurdle, this film is still a must for cinemagoers who like their movies a little more offbeat.
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