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Captain Fantastic: Movie Review

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Captain Fantastic 3Captain Fantastic follows the exploits of the eccentric and unique Cash family.  For over a decade Ben Cash and his wife Leslie have raised their six children in the isolated utopian compound of their dreams located somewhere in the Oregonian wilderness.  Eschewing the modern trappings of capitalism and technology, they’ve instead imbued in their children an education focused on literary knowledge, a knowledge of survival and an ability to work the land, as well as a deep seated respect for Noam Chomsky’s political philosophies.  Living off the grid and in a fair state of isolation, the family has developed very tight bonds over the years.  When an unexpected tragedy strikes, the family will find themselves at a crossroads that will that will both question and threaten those bonds and their entire way of life, as they set out on a cross country road trip in their colorful converted school bus named Steve.

Captain Fantastic 1Viggo Mortensen plays the Cash family patriarch and delivers an exceptionally strong performance.  His character is a pillar of strength and sticks zealously to his philosophical and political ideology, even when that means that his parenting style veers into almost uncomfortable levels of faith that his children can overcome obstacles on their own, based on the knowledge that he’s instilled in them.  When he begins to question the extremity of some of those choices however, he develops into a character that for once in his life is unsure of himself.  Mortensen handles the depth of that conflict masterfully.  The performances by the children are also particularly strong considering the age of the actors playing them.  While the children are not the most three dimensional characters ever written, the young actors create distinct personalities for their respective characters and each one becomes loveable in their own unique way.  The end result of these performances is that we believe in the family.  We want them to do well and we cheer for them as they stumble from one socially awkward situation to another.

Captain Fantastic 2The film straddles the conflict between anti-capitalist socialization and the ability to engage in the real world around you.  The kids are smart; smarter than children generally are in our society at that age and that goes beyond book smarts.  They’re able to function within the natural world around them in an age where that has largely been lost due to technological development.  The film opens with a hunting montage where the cinematography gracefully incorporates the viewer into a primitive hunt that is eventually revealed to be a rite of passage ceremony for Ben’s oldest son.  His transition into manhood isn’t reliant on a hunt in the modern sense, aided by the technology of high powered rifles.  He emerges covered in mud, silently from a hidden position falling upon a deer and taking down the animal with nothing more than his hands and a knife.  It’s a metaphor for his ability to survive and function in the natural world as a self-sufficient being, without the trappings of modern capitalism and industry.

Captain Fantastic is a film about extremes and the need for moderation.  On one side you have Ben’s nephews who care more about Nike sneakers and video games than they do about knowledge and family.  On the other side while his children are well educated, able to fend for themselves, and pillars of physical health, they know nothing about social interaction outside of their Neverland-esque forest dwelling.   Nor do they know how to function in the world that the rest of society inhabits.  It’s an engaging and thought provoking film and by the end the Cash family ends up being a group of endearing misfits that you wouldn’t mind crossing paths with.

Captain Fantastic (2016)
Director:  Matt Ross
Studio:  Bleecker Street
Genre:  Drama
MPAA:  R
Release Date:  July 8th, 2016
Author:  Angela Colgan

Angela Colgan Angela Colgan is a San Diego native who recently graduated from college with a double major in Visual Arts Media with a film emphasis and History with an emphasis in war, revolution, and social change. She is currently employed at a local start up video production company, working on a few short online comedy series’ that will eventually launch on their own internet television website. A fan of movies since a very early age, Angela has been appreciating, arguing about, and reviewing films amongst family and friends her entire life, often much to their annoyance. A fan of all genres of film, she is particularly a fan of old movie classics, horror films in all of their different manifestations, and one-liner filled action romps from the late 1980’s and early 90’s. She hopes to work in the commercial film industry in the near future in either post-production editing, or sound design.

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