Viggo Mortensen is Amazing in “Captain Fantastic”

imageSomewhere on the cinematic patriarchs continuum between Captain von Trapp and the Great Santini, Viggo Mortensen gives a sensitive, soulful and indelible portrayal of a flawed but well-meaning dad in Matt Ross’ incredibly engaging Captain Fantastic (A-). Mortensen is the draw here, summoning a rugged loner charisma that at this point can just be called “Mortensenesque” as a man raising his six children off the grid in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest with unconventional techniques to teach them self-sufficiency, critical thinking, peak physical performance and a global worldview. His headstrong homeschooling, an ongoing ropes course and debate society in the woods, wins him no favor with his in-laws (well played by Frank Langella and Ann Dowd) but makes him a hero in the eyes of his neo-hippie children, all beautifully played. George MacKay is an earnest delight as the oldest of the offspring, incredibly moving as he experiences a date for the first time after being shrouded in the wilderness. Ross makes an assured directorial and writing debut, showcasing the central family’s confrontations with society in a way that keeps you guessing of whether or not it will all work out. There was a melancholy moment I thought would be a pensive ending, but I liked the extended epilogue – including an unforgettable family jam session – even more. The film is a cult sensation challenging American mores in the tradition of Easy Rider and Into the Wild and highly recommended.