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Viggo Mortensen is Ben in Captain Fantastic, an Entertainment One release.

WILSON WEBB/eOne

2.5 out of 4 stars

Title
Captain Fantastic
Written by
Matt Ross
Directed by
Matt Ross
Starring
Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay and Samantha Isler
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English

In a short review, there's a temptation to be snappy – "Captain Fantastic Isn't!" But this movie deserves more thoughtful consideration. Ben (Viggo Mortensen) and his absent wife (we soon learn why) are conducting a radical experiment, raising their six children off the grid in the Pacific Northwest forest. For a while, it feels like utopia: The kids, brilliant thinkers with mad survival skills, seem to be thriving in mind, body and spirit. (Though I wish they'd been more differentiated in personality.) But when Ben's wife dies, he takes his geniuses on a road trip to her funeral, and the outside world rushes in. The script, written by the film's director Matt Ross, taps into something urgent: a growing unease that we are not living as we should. It's a great subject. But Ben's departure from the norm is so extreme, we're primed to expect that the culture clash, when it comes, will be powerful and dangerous. Instead, the film suddenly backs down, and the resulting learning and growing feels like chickening out.

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