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Title: Captain Fantastic

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :halfstar:

HTS Overall Score:73

Parenting is one of the most complex and stressful (albeit exhilarating and rewarding) undertakings of the human existence. How we teach, raise, and guide our kids is unique. But in reality most of us don’t deviate too much from the standard norms, even though there are slight differences here and there that make each individual their own person. At the same time those deviations and nuances within the standardized “norm” of societal creations is enough that each and every person is 100% unique, although I have to say there are some aspects of humanity that DOES crave a balancing “normalcy”. It’s the innate desire and built in craving for human interaction and the natural swing towards order and not chaos. HOWEVER, there are some people who like to strike out on their own and deviate more wildly from the traditional structures of society and make their own way. They go by many names. Some call them hippies, some call them weirdos, some call them preppers, and other people just call them “different”. “Captain Fantastic” takes a look at a family that is very VERY much outside of typical American normalcy and lets us peer into their lives, dissecting what makes them tick, and showing both sides of the coin.

The film opens with a breathtaking shot of a young Bo (Ben MacKay), covered in dirt and black mask, single handedly kill a deer with his bare hands. Bo is the oldest son of Ben (Viggo Mortenson) and older brother to several more children of Ben’s living out in the wilderness. Ben and his wife live kind of off the beaten path. They raise their kids out in the woods and teach them their own schooling, all the while living off the land. However, something is amiss. Ben’s wife has been mentally ill for quite some time and decided to end her own life in a bout of bipolar depression. Now the family has to cope with losing their mother, their wife and their best friend. A loss that is hard for every being on the planet, but especially hard for a family that lives as strangely as this family does.

It’s kind of a given that Ben and his family’s method of living doesn’t sit to well with the rest of their relatives. The mother’s father (played by Frank Langella) is furious about the situation and refuses to let Ben come to the funeral. Well if this unconventional family can survive bears, the trials of Mother Nature and a few cuts and bruises they certainly aren’t going to just roll over and take this ultimatum. Embarking on a road trip to pay one last bit of respect to their beloved mother, the group is forced to learn more about their true selves than they ever expected. Even if those elements of truth are laced with pain and suffering.

Stories about estranged families and their struggles is nothing unique. In fact it’s been done a million times in a million different ways across hundreds of films. But what “Captain Fantastic” is deficient in that department it makes up for in spades with its uniqueness and enthusiastic performances. Ben and his family is probably one of the most bizarrely entertaining presentations of the “off the grid” family I’ve ever seen. Each and every character is unique and special, and the actors are just having a blast with the roles. Their enthusiasm is wildly infectious and even though you may not agree with their methods. You can’t deny that you’re actually rooting for them to win in their ‘mission’ to free mom.

While part of me doesn’t like the celebration of oddball behavior, I was deeply enthralled at the underlying message of experience vs. knowledge. Each and every one of the kids are educated beyond a doubt. In many ways way more than any of us are educated in this modern day, mimicking the studios days of 100 years ago. However what the kids have in book smarts pales in comparison to the lack of experience they have in the real world. This is explored when Bo wants to leave to go to college and he and Ben have a drag out argument about learning a book vs. actually experiencing life. Both facets of the argument are given equal sway and you’re left with a profound respect for the pair. Even though you both agree and disagree with them. The same can be said for Ben’s growth in this film. He wants to do what’s best for his family, but sometimes what’s best and what you want are two separate things. The last 20 minutes are easily the most powerful portions of the film and will bring a tear to even the most hardened eye.


Rated R for language and brief graphic nudity

Video :4stars:
The digitally shot film looks substantial and quite pleasing in its 1080p form. Giving us a very solid fine detail all around, especially in the wooded area where the family calls their home. The greens of the woodland home is bright and deeply saturated, blended with deep earthy browns and few flecks of blue and yellow. The colors open up a good deal once Ben and the crew make their way into the “real” world. Intimate details like the dirt covering Ben’s and Bo’s face, as well as the roughhewn stitches of their crude clothing show up quite nicely on screen, and overall clarity is quite satisfying. Sometimes I noticed a little bit of banding in the shadows (especially look for it when Ben’s wife appears to him just as he’s dozing off). Black levels are normally strong, but do show some washing out at times. Fleshtones appears natural and the contrast is well within reasonable balance. Overall a very impressive looking transfer.

Audio :4stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track on board the Blu-ray is a very nice sounding mix. Opening up with a fairly wide range that hones in on the forest location when Bo is making his transition from boyhood to manhood. The creak and snap of branches underfoot. The rustle of leaves before Bo makes his leap, and the slight whistle of the breeze through the branches make for an inviting and open soundscape. The film gets a little more dialog intensive for a while, but then branches out once more as it makes its way into “modern” society. Bagpipes blasting over the stereo system, the sound of traffic on the highway, and even the whisper of parishioners during the funeral service all make for a fairly immersive experience. LFE is tight and controlled, but never overly aggressive, and the music adds some nice mid bass punch to the track.

Extras: :halfstar:

• Insane or Insanely Great?

Overall: :3.5stars:

“Captain Fantastic” is a brutally honest and heartwarming story about a rather unique and odd family. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with their off the grid nature, or even like their message. Ben and his family are intrinsically human and innocently raw at the same time. Director/Writer Matt Ross takes a clichéd story about an estranged family and turns it into something innately loveable and human to the touch. Bits of the story are a bit over the top, but I could not take my eyes off the screen the whole two hours and even had to double to check to really make sure 2 hours had past. The disc specs are very solid, although the lack of any substantial extras is a bit disappointing. Definitely recommended.

Additional Information:

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler
Directed by: Matt Ross
Written by: Matt Ross
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Universal
Rated: R
Runtime: 119 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 25th 2016

Buy Captain Fantastic On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Recommended

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