Viggo Mortensen is a splendid actor as previously demonstrated in such fine films as “A Dangerous Method” (2011), “The Road” (2009), “Appaloosa” (2008), “Eastern Promises (2007), “A History of Violence” (2005) and his memorable role in the fantastic “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (2001-2003). He continually seeks out roles that challenge the audience, and he succeeds in accomplishing that goal in director Matt Ross’s inventive “Captain Fantastic.”
To begin, this is not a Marvel comic book film, so put that out of your mind. The movie deals with a father of six who is home schooling his children in a remote corner of the American Northwest, which includes a large library of notable books that the kids are required to read. This education covered Supreme Court opinions like Citizens United, where even the youngest child understood the dangers of providing free speech to American corporations.
In addition, the family lives off the land, engaging in active daily outdoor exercises while killing wild game to serve as that day’s supper. They resemble the life led by the family in “Swiss Family Robinson” (1960), except that this family rejects many fundamental concepts embraced in the real world. For example, they consider Coca-Cola to be a poison and find any form of religion as being little more than an attempt to promote ignorance.
When tragedy strikes the Cash family, they are forced to visit relatives and friends on their way to a funeral. Every experience for the kids is a new one, and they are left stunned to discover that you can enjoy a chicken dinner without having to first kill the chicken. Controversy gradually consumes everyone, and the question revolves around whether father Ben Cash will be able to get his brood home or face a custody battle with his father-in-law (Frank Langella) who strongly objects to the way the kids are being raised.
There are a number of very good supporting performances, but I must note the contributions of Sami Isler, Annalise Basso and Nicholas Hamilton, who play three of the children. However, it is George MacKay who stands out as Bodavan, the oldest child. He resembles the role played by River Phoenix in Sydney Lumet’s memorable film “Running on Empty” (1988). Like River, Bodavan has been secretly admitted to numerous universities in the Northeast, and the question in both films is whether it will prove to be acceptable to his father.
This is a creative, daring film that encourages you to do a very rare thing in a theater, namely to think. The Cash family may have been held back in some ways with their upbringing in the woods, but could you really criticize their observations, which included noting that people in the real world were extremely obese?
“Star Trek Beyond”
I took my foreign exchange student to see “Star Trek Beyond” in the IMAX theater at the Indiana State Museum in downtown Indianapolis, and it proved to be a perfect venue. Director Justin Lin, coming off his recent success with 2013’s “Fast & Furious 6,” has succeeded in bringing us a rather poignant story of likeable characters fighting for survival on an unknown planet.
I know that many of you shy away from the “Star Trek” films, but this movie proves to be as surprisingly enjoyable as the recent “Tarzan” film. Additionally, the film finds a way to honor and memorialize the late Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock, and does the same for the talented Anton Yelchin who recently died at the age of 27 in a tragic accident in his driveway.
The film, co-written by Simon Pegg, is spirited, sarcastic and inventive. As an example, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban) repeatedly engage in hysterical exchanges, the most memorable focusing on the necklace that Spock gave to his “love interest” Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Was the gift just based on affection or the fact that it contained a piece of Vulcan jewelry that Spock could track?
The film is filled with some great special effects. It was fascinating to watch the USS Enterprise be destroyed by projectiles that appear to be launched from some type of volcano, not to mention Captain Kirk’s (Chris Pine) wild ride on a motorcycle done to distract the enemy’s attention.
All of the actors give wonderful performances, beginning with Pine as Kirk. Pegg is his usual breath of fresh air as a very funny Scotty and John Cho gives some grace to his performance as Sulu. However, Idris Elba again stands out as the villain Krall, and he continues to excel in such roles as seen in “The Jungle Book,” “Zootopia,” “Beasts of No Nation” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
However, Sofia Boutella commands your attention as Jaylah, an escaped prisoner who helps the isolated Enterprise gang have a fighting chance to survive. She is startlingly attractive in her white face with black stripes, and I think she could be a hit on the runway at any fashion show in Paris.
Again, Mr. Lin’s film excels at moments where it pays tribute to the late Mr. Nimoy. In addition, there was a tear in my eye as I watched Mr. Yelchin’s endearing recreation of Chekov. This movie was his swan song, and I can only encourage you to hunt down “Green Room”, where he is memorable in a dark, violent movie that remains one of the best films of 2016.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.