Steven Spielberg directs Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill and Penelope Wilton in this faithful adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children classic about the friendship between an orphan girl and giant who blows dreams through children’s windows.
Spielberg’s 30th feature feels rather anonymous. It is not obviously a work by him – even though it features all his now classical framing, lighting and work with colour; a fine lead child performance coupled with an awe inspiring, perfect one from current muse Rylance; and that near the knuckle family friendly peril that his name became a brand on. If Dahl and he share anything it is their ability to take a child’s through their new worse fears and after confronting them on that rollercoaster, let the safety barriers come up and the relief wash over the reader / viewer. Here the fear of being snatched out of bed and eaten by giants is masterfully realised and toyfully concluded. This moves onto the wonder of The BFG’s extensive dream operation and conversations betwixt Sophie and he about Giant Country, friendship, lonliness and guilt. This was always going to be a sticking point for any true big screen reinvention of the childhood favourite. A lot of the book is merely a long if charming chat in a cave. This running time gobbling middle sequence has some of the best moments – anything involving dreams or Rylance ability to convey both amiability and deep sadness in one look is truly the stuff of magic. And once we eventually shift into visits to the Queen, whizz popping corgis and helicopter attacks the film moves up a gear but some of that quality uniqueness is left behind. Yet for all that silly and satisfying spectacle that wraps the tale up, it is the chat heavy, one location trapped, middle section that wins your heart if not the box office.