Nominated for Best Actor (Viggo Mortensen) at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
“Captain Fantastic” is infectious. It reminded me of the “Wilderness Family” movies I attended as a boy. Remember those? It was a trilogy from the 1970’s, about a family that ran away from life in the polluted, capitalistic, big city, and escaped to living in the tranquility of the wild. In retrospect, they probably weren’t very good films. But (at least), the first one was a pretty sizable box office hit. It captured something that audiences may have been longing for in 1975. “Captain Fantastic” finds that same feeling. But it’s also grittier, better written, and showcases some wonderful performances. And it ain’t just Viggo!
Ben Cash (a very charismatic Mr. Mortensen) is fed up with polluted, materialistic American Life, so retreats to the Washington wilderness with his wife and six children–and lives off of the land. The kids are all home-schooled, athletic, creative, and taught survival techniques. But upon the sudden death of their mother, they are beckoned back into society upon word that their grandfather Jack (Frank Langella, making the most of playing the “heavy”), has planned a funeral for his daughter, that goes against their late mother’s wishes. So, Ben and his clan, venture to stop Jack–even after he threatens to have Ben arrested.
Mr. Mortensen finds just the right rhythm here, for his character Ben, and I’m certain that his ease in displaying that so confidently is what landed him an Oscar nomination. Also quite fine is George MacKay, as eldest son Bo. Mr. MacKay’s quirks and mannerisms as a socially inept young adult, trapped between two worlds, are wonderfully effective. Matt Ross provides strong, uncluttered direction, even when his screenplay makes the expected turn into sentimentality. The film suffers a little bit from that eventuality…but it hardly spirals out of control. “Captain Fantastic” is a solid film, made better by some superb performances. I highly recommend it for that, as well as for its emotional honesty.