Viggo Mortensen was nominated for Best Actor at the Golden Globes (he lost to Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea) for his role in the film Captain Fantastic. Captain Fantastic is not a film about super heroes. It is about an unconventional courageous family meeting tragedy head on. Comedy/drama best describes this film, which is rated R for language and brief graphic nudity.
Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Leslie (Trin Miller) have six children. Leslie has been ill and away from them for three months. They live in the forests of the Pacific Northwest in isolation, and have a way of life that is a mix of survivalists and philosophers. The children, three boys, three girls, are home schooled, and would put any college student to shame.
When Mom dies, they travel in a bus named Steve down to New Mexico, appropriately stunned by the “civilization” that they pass through on their trip. Jack (Frank Langella) has never approved of his daughter’s lifestyle with Ben and doesn’t let Ben or the children forget it.
I found one scene when a police officer pulls over the bus for a minor infraction really interesting. The kids on cue from Dad launch into some sort of Jesus song, scaring the officer to death, but you also realize that society is much more accepting of Christians being home schooled, and not so much kids who read the classics, question authority and learn to be rational, critical thinkers. That’s why they hid who they really were.
The life the family leads is extreme, but necessary in the story so that what we take for granted in everyday American life can be seen for the unhealthy, often sick routines that most Americans do every day. I liked this family. I wouldn’t want to live so isolated, having to kill my own food every day, but those kids were self-sufficient, smart and strong, something most American kids are not anymore.
I’ve liked Viggo Mortensen ever since I saw him opposite Diane Lane in A Walk on the Moon. He’s a good actor and an intelligent person, writing poetry and being involved in other artistic pursuits. He was cast well as Ben.
If you watch this with a group of friends, it should inspire lots of dialogue afterwards. The story brings up questions of respecting one’s final wishes, and how much book learning versus daily interaction with others builds a well-rounded person. There are also things Ben encourages that are not okay to emulate. A disdain for capitalism leads to unusual behavior that takes advantage of others.
Some of the movie was filmed in New Mexico, and it was easy to recognize the locations. I highly recommend Captain Fantastic. There’s only one place where I thought the film went a little overboard. You’ll have to see it to guess what it is I’m referring to. It’s an intelligent comedy/drama that may inspire you to consider any blind acceptance you have of the way things are.