The BFG | Film review – Spielberg & Rylance give Roald Dahl’s classic tale wizardry and charm

Steven Spielberg supplies the wizardry, but it's Mark Rylance who gives this adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic children's tale The BFG its charm.


BFG Ruby Barnhill Mark Rylance

Steven Spielberg’s family-friendly adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic 1982 children’s book The BFG bursts at the seams with sparkling CGI and motion-capture wizardry, but it is the tender, whimsical charm of Mark Rylance that truly dazzles – and gives the movie its heart.

In virtual form, Rylance is of course the Big Friendly Giant of the title, a benevolent fellow who captures dreams in jars and speaks of figglers, frobscottle, phizzwizards and the like in a delightful burry voice (by his own admission, his English is ‘a bit crumply’).

BFG Mark Rylance

He enters the story when insomniac 10-year-old orphan Sophie (newcomer Ruby Barnhill) catches a glimpse of his latest dream-catching expedition from the window of her fusty orphanage – the setting is the early 1980s of the book’s publication but the film’s deliberately anachronistic London of cobblestones and fog feels much older.

To avoid detection, he snatches her up and carries her off to giant country, where – after some scarily uncertain moments while he prepares a meal in his cottage – his friendly intentions become apparent. The BFG is, however, very much a runt among giants and his cannibal peers have none of his scruples and certainly don’t share his vegetarian diet…

BFG Ruby Barnhill

Filming a screenplay by the late Melissa Mathison (whose script for E.T. reached the screen the same year that Dahl’s book appeared in print), Spielberg is clearly having a ball. He may hold back when it comes to the film’s more threatening episodes but he certainly goes to town with the wonder and silliness.

The interlude in which the BFG takes Sophie dream catching shimmers with magic, while the later scenes featuring Penelope Wilton’s good-humoured Queen in a comically imagined Buckingham Palace fizzle with fart jokes and other mischievous fun.


Certificate PG. Runtime 117 mins. Director Steven Spielberg



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