Captain Fantastic

Trump supporters will not like this film.  The Cash family slogans, “Power to the People” and “Stick it to the Man!”

Captain FantasticViggo 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 The 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.  To the contrary, 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 while finding 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 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 (1998).  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.