Sundance Review: Captain Fantastic

Score: B-

Director: Matt Ross

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Frank Langella, Trin Miller

Running Time: 118 Minutes

Rated: R

Director Matt Ross captures a simpler time with his newest film Captain Fantastic. The film (his sophomore effort) is led by the always entertaining Viggo Mortensen, who transforms himself into a modern day Robinson Crusoe.

Sick of the capitalist ways of society, Ben (Mortensen), along with his wife Leslie (Trin Miller) and his troupe of six children, create their own colony in the wilderness away from our technology-dependent society. But after tragedy hits regarding his mother, the entire clan is forced to assimilate back into the city and get into a tug of war with his father over her funeral arrangements.

Ross creates a wonderful world and pens a memorable script that is both funny and heartfelt. Ben and his family are very self-sufficient. They hunt (Oregon Trail style) with bow and arrow and brute strength as the children are all homeschooled and very athletic, enjoying a steep mountain climb coupled with a discussion about hegemony and the fate of the world before breakfast time. If that wasn’t enough, they are also musically inclined, favoring Bach, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky, fully unaware of the more modern styles of rap and hip-hop.

That being said, life unplugged does contain some downsides. The children, albeit brainy, are socially awkward, unable to converse with people from the city without raising eyebrows. Their lacking communication skills become extremely apparent during the film’s later half, when the children must interact with others their age as they attempt to return to normal life.

The film, though strong, isn’t without its flaws. The opening sequence showed promise of a raw, edgy dark comedy, but as the story wanes on, we get a more linear, straightforward narrative. The film also would have benefited from fewer characters. The six children, although adorable, come off a bit cheesy as they cloud the feature. As a result none of them are well defined.

Captain Fantastic, albeit a bit preachy, brings up some important issues about how society is evolving. Ross almost taunts Millennials with the importance of respecting history while detaching from technology. His film reminds us all that peace, love and understanding never hurt anyone and most of all that there is a world out there waiting to be explored.


About Matt Kerwin

Matt Kerwin

Leave a Reply