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Review: ‘Captain Fantastic’ is Fantastic

Review: ‘Captain Fantastic’ is Fantastic


“Captain Fantastic” has been making its presence known in the independent film scene.

After taking home awards from the Cannes Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, and Palm Springs International Film Festival, there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll be seeing this film and a few of its actors on the nomination lists for the Golden Globes and Oscars. Matt Ross, who wrote and directed the movie, has created a beautiful and powerful piece of cinema, examining several social issues that have been labeled as taboo throughout today’s America. It’s one of those films that helps me remember how wonderful of an art medium film can be and why I still love the medium in the first place.

I do need to give a warning, though. “Captain Fantastic” will push you to feel raw emotions you forgot even existed within you, and you can most definitely credit that to the perfectly chosen cast and their fine work. Matt Ross might’ve been the one to yank those characters out of his stellar group of actors, but Ben (Viggo Mortensen) and his alluring family protect the true heart of this film, captivating you every second of the way.

Cinematics – 5

Matt Ross' compositions and cinematography are brilliant.

Matt Ross’ compositions and cinematography are brilliant.

There’s no denying Matt Ross is an incredible filmmaker. His compositions and cinematography altogether should be studied, admired and respected by all aspiring filmmakers. The script he created, with its brilliant dialogue and perfectly executed plot structure, should be studied, admired and respected by all aspiring screenwriters and writers everywhere. I’m serious. This is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s mainly coming from my love for filmmaking as an art form as well as a form of entertainment. If you’re an average moviegoer and like to see some fun, action-packed material during your once-a-month trip to the movies, then in all honesty “Captain Fantastic” wouldn’t be the best choice for you. I wouldn’t call “Captain Fantastic” a complete auteur piece, but it has enough of the raw and almost barbaric style of filmmaking that the average moviegoer may find themselves a little bored because its not what they expected.

Regardless of that, I believe if everyone, film buffs and average moviegoers alike, give the film a chance and allow themselves to be immersed in the excellent universe Matt Ross has created, then there’s no doubt you’ll be captivated the entire time. I surely was, and how the film held onto me was similar to the first time I saw “Beasts of the Souther Wild.” More on that later, though.

Nicholas Hamilton is going to be something special in the film world. I guarantee it.

Nicholas Hamilton is going to be something special in the film world. I guarantee it.

Above I talked a little bit about the cast. Here is where I’ll say this ensemble is probably going to be rated and regarded as the best ensemble of 2016, and we’re only in June right now. Every actor, especially George McKay and Nicholas Hamilton, fit their roles with perfection and were able to create an incredible cohesive unit, creating one of the best families I’ve ever seen on screen. While Viggo Mortensen and George McKay are the most well-known out of everyone, Nicholas Hamilton stole the show for me. He reminds me of a young River Phoenix, and while I do pray his life doesn’t go down the same road, I do hope he can rock the film world just like Phoenix did. His performance in “Captain Fantastic” is remarkable, particularly during his scene with George McKay on the basketball court and the scene when he finds out his mother has just committed suicide. He comes off as a breath of fresh air, immersing the audience into the story and helping them feel some kind of hope for the next generation of actors. Now that DiCaprio has grown up and won an Oscar, it’s time for the next great child star to make his appearance and run the show. Nicholas Hamilton might very well be that child star. I can’t wait to see what he does as Henry Bowers in the “IT” remake.

I can go on and on about how perfectly crafted every aspect of this film was, but there isn’t enough room for that right now. Perhaps I’ll do an “In The Ring” session about it, where I can ramble on and on about what I want. Just know for now that “Captain Fantastic” is an excellent piece of cinema and is an incredible example of how powerful and emotional this art medium can be.

Entertainment Value – 5


Like I said before, I was captivated the entire time. I loved watching how a family living off the grid works and goes through life without the technologies and supposed necessities we “need” in American society today. Watching Ben (Viggo Mortensen) raise his children with barbaric but powerful methods, teaching them how to survive in nature and forcing them to read everything from philosophy to medical journals, seems like it would come off as more of a fascist regime than an American family. Well, sure, from an outsider’s perspective it seems like Ben is Charles Manson and forcing his family to turn into a murderous cult, but on the inside you get the chance to understand Ben’s methods and how strong he’s made his children by doing so. There’s a campfire scene where, one by one, Ben and his family start playing their instruments, symbolizing the strength of the family and how each member serves a purpose within the family and in life.

The campfire scene is wonderful.

The campfire scene is wonderful.

It’s a wonderful scene, but it’s not the only one. The film has plenty more once it gets into the thick of act two and the break into act three. George McKay once again shows why he’ll be a future Oscar winner during a scene where he tells Ben, who’s Anti-Society to the bone, that he’s been accepted into all the best universities in the country. This causes a back-and-forth argument about Ben not wanting Bodevan (McKay) to conform to the stereotypes of society, stating he’s already smarter than all of the students and the colleges won’t teach him anything. When Bodevan finally has enough, he breaks into beautiful bits of dialogue, starting it all off with “You made us freaks!” It’s a very powerful and meaningful line, especially after witnessing how the children are ready to survive in nature but not ready at all for the outside world. If McKay doesn’t at least get a Golden Globe nod for his performance along side Viggo for his, then I don’t know if I’ll have any more faith left to give to these award shows.

It’s a slow and melodic movie, but with how much passion, love and power are harnessed in between the lines, it’s hard not to be fully immersed the entire time. My favorite aspect was how Matt Ross forces the audience to sit on the fence about what is right and wrong when it comes to raising children. Ben represents the anti-society, off-the-grid side of the argument while his father-in-law (Frank Langella) represents the “American Dream” and the conventional way a family is supposed to look like. I found myself fighting emotions that leaned towards both sides, but in the end it all comes down to doing what you think is right for the people you love. If other’s don’t believe it’s right, at least you do and that’s the best one can do. So simple, but powerful… which is also a great description of this film.

I cam away from this one with a full heart and a better understanding of the human race, so it’s definitely safe to say I loved it.

Re-Watchability – 3

It's no "Beasts of the Southern Wild" but still brilliant and re-watchable.

It’s no “Beasts of the Southern Wild” but still brilliant and re-watchable.

Remember how I said watching this movie reminded me of the first time I saw “Beasts of the Southern Wild?” Well, it did, but the only difference is, after “Captain Fantastic” ended, I didn’t get the urge to immediately watch it again. Sure, the movie is a wonderful piece of cinema and a wonderful example of great screenwriting, but it didn’t affect me on such a deep personal level like “Beasts” did.

Will I watch “Captain Fantastic” again? Absolutely, but I’ll pick “Beasts” over it any day.

  • Cinematics
  • Entertainment Value
  • Rewatchability


Get ready for a wonderful piece of cinema that will rock your world physically, emotionally and socially. Viggo Mortensen brings one of his best performances yet, but we cannot forget about the rest of the cast. Everyone is perfectly casted, and George McKay and Nicholas Hamilton really shine bright along side Mortensen, who is for sure the center of this masterful universe. There's enough in this movie to make you laugh, cry and judge yourself while also judging the conventional traditions of the American way. It's a road-trip movie about an off-the-grid family, but it definitely isn't family friendly. Many issues ranging from suicide, religion, America's educational system, and mental illness are discussed and examined in gruesome detail at times. So, once the kids are asleep, be prepared to be captivated from beginning to end. This is a good one!

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About The Author


Seeing "Stand By Me" at the age of 6 solidified Matt's ambition to be a part of the entertainment industry. After growing up in Northern Virginia, studying film at Old Dominion University and rising from intern to Stage Manager at a Dinner Theater, Matt found himself at a speed bump in his life and wanting to express himself in more of a substantial way than calling a cue or flying a line every night. This need for creative expression pushed him to take on the challenge of getting a Master's Degree, which sent him on a year-long endeavor that seemed to throw obstacles and setbacks from every direction. But now, Matt is a screenwriter with a Master's of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and a passion for film, video games and professional wrestling, looking to keep the ambitious 6-year-old inside of him alive by entertaining the world through various forms of entertainment.

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