Viggo is fantastic.
For a film that champions idiosyncrasy and individualism, Captain Fantastic unfolds in a curiously conventional manner. Director Matt Ross acknowledges that life isn’t as simple as quirky versus conformity, but he isn’t an audacious enough filmmaker to have created a movie that actually reflects that sentiment. It’s engaging, but it’s safe.
Ben (Viggo Mortensen) is raising his family off the grid, deep in a forest somewhere in the Pacific Northwest in America. Thanks to his diligence and vigilance as a teacher, each of his six children possesses borderline genius intellect and physicality. They speak multiple languages, engage in high-level schoolwork, and are fit enough to match professional athletes.
When their mother, suffering from a variety of bipolar disorder, kills herself, her father, Jack (Frank Langella), blames Ben and his unusual lifestyle choices for her death, and warns the family to stay away from the funeral. Ben ignores the warning and his family re-enter conventional society for the first time in many years.
Viggo Mortensen is the perfect actor to play someone like Ben, because it isn’t a stretch to imagine Mortensen behaving in a similar fashion in real life. He has built a career out of choosing roles that combine eccentric behaviour with extreme charisma and charm, and Ben is the archetypal example of this trend. Captain Fantastic may not have been the film it is were it not for Mortensen’s wonderful performance.
In cinemas: September 8, 2016
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Frank Langella
Directed by: Matt Ross