“Why did you take me?” asks Sophie. The BFG replies, “Because I hears your lonely heart, in all the secret whisperings of the world.”
Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, first published his novel The BFG in 1982. It was an expansion of a short story he had written in his 1975 book Danny, the Champion of the World. The BFG grew popular enough that a feature film adaptation would materialize seven years after its first publication; a TV animated film (also called The BFG) directed by Brian Cosgrove. Due to its technical challenges, it would take another 27 years for a live action adaptation to be properly realized for the big screen, and Steven Spielberg would be the man to bring Dahl’s classic book to life once more. The film had a good amount of hype, especially considering it was Spielberg’s first-ever film for Walt Disney Pictures. I recently saw Spielberg’s The BFG on the big screen in 3D recently, and it was a wonderful experience.
2016’s The BFG follows a young, orphaned girl who befriends a friendly giant and helps him devise a plan to stop a group of man-eating giants (who are almost twice the size of the friendly giant) from Giant Country from further terrorizing the human world. Spielberg assembles a terrific cast that includes Mark Rylance (as the Big Friendly Giant), Ruby Barnhill (as Sophie), Jemaine Clement (as the Fleshlumpeater), Penelope Wilton (as Queen Elizabeth II), Rebecca Hall (as Mary), Rafe Spall (as Mr. Tibbs), Bill Hader (as the Bloodbottler), Michael David Adamthwaite (as the Butcher Boy), Daniel Bacon (as the Bonecruncher), Chris Gibbs (as the Gizzardgulper), Adam Godley (as the Manhugger), Jonathan Holmes (as the Childchewer), Paul Moniz De Sa (as Meatdripper), Olafur Olafsson (as the Maidmasher), and Marilyn Norry (as Mrs. Clonkers). Rylance (fresh off an Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor for Spielberg’s previous film, Bridge of Spies) is perfectly cast as the lovable, friendly giant, and Barnhill gives a strong performance as the young orphan who befriends and aids the BFG. Clement is terrifying as the main antagonistic giant, and Wilton shines as the British monarch who is recruited by Sophie and the BFG to help execute their plan against the giants.
The screenplay by Melissa Mathison (the Oscar-nominated writer of Spielberg’s 1982 classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) faithfully adapts Dahl’s novel, and Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography reflects the tone of the film (hopeful and beautiful). The production design by Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg is immense, ranging from the orphanage to the BFG’s home to Giant Country to Buckingham Palace (both inside and out). Joanna Johnston’s costume designs bring Dahl’s descriptions to life. The special effects are incredible, from the giants to the Tree of Dreams to the recreation of 1980s London. Michael Kahn’s editing keeps the film moving at a great pace. John Williams delivers a moving score full of adventure and dread, anchored by a moving main theme. Spielberg’s The BFG is a soaring, faithful adaptation of Dahl’s classic book that is full of vintage Spielberg charm and childlike wonder, and features another strong child performance from a Spielberg film.