Sunday, 16 October 2016

SWISS ARMY MAN review

Paul Dano stars as Hank, a man stranded on an island and close to suicide when a farting corpse called Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on shore, quickly realising that he may be his only hope of survival and escape from the island. Swiss Army Man is the latest release from distribution company A24 (who after Green Room, The Lobster and American Honey can do little wrong this year), picked up after the film caused quite a stir at Sundance.

From directing duo Daniels (whose background is in left of field TV comedies like Children's Hospital and NTSF:SD:SUV, and yes, they're both called Daniel), Swiss Army Man could quite easily have been little more than Weekend at Bernies meets Cast Away. Both excellent films in their own special way, but thankfully this is neither as slapstick as Bernies nor as isolated as Cast Away. The film, largely a two hander between Dano and Radcliffe's beached boys, is full of invention, and a bizarre and unique idea that pays off.

I'm not one who's easily amused by fart jokes, and although it's understandable why Swiss Army Man has become known as the farting corpse movie, it's much more. So much more. Despite delivering a number of fantastic performances in recent years, it hasn't been the easiest of tasks for Daniel Radcliffe to free himself from the shackles of the boy wizard. Well, nothing announces yourself as a fearless actor more than appearing in a film that features a close up of your hairy arse crack and an erection that doubles up as a compass.


Rather than just emitting bodily gas, Hank soon learns that Manny is able to provide him with everything he needs to survive; drinking water, chopping tools, and eventually conversation, as he starts to relearn the ability to talk. Showing himself to be a highly talented comic actor, as Radcliffe's Manny regains sentience and a boyish innocence to romance and the world, his ability to deliver a one-liner that would be a social faux pas in polite company is both hilarious and signifying of the burgeoning bond between himself and Hank.

Dano is one of the most talented actors working in independent cinema today with a near impeccable taste in projects. However, it appears that he is well aware of his typecasting as the lonely, hopeless romantic type, and Swiss Army Man both plays to and subverts that image. Hank is in love with a woman he rides the bus with every day, and it is the exploration of his relationship with her that provides an introspective commentary between himself and Manny that helps solidify their bond.

A story of the power of friendship and what it means to be alive, together Hank and Manny create a makeshift world from trash, recreating scenes from Hank's life that allow him the chance to do things differently this time. In this respect the film taps into a Gondry-esque charm, recalling the creativity of Be Kind Rewind along with the emotional introspection of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This approach also applies to the soundtrack which largely consists of a vocal chorus, provided by Andy Hull from Manchester Orchestra. It's dreamlike and ethereal and unexpectedly touching.

Based on its synopsis alone, it is understandable why audiences may be sceptical, but they needn't be. Paul Dano is dependable as ever and Daniel Radcliffe provides what is undoubtedly one of the bravest performances I've seen in a long time. Surprisingly deep and introspective, Swiss Army Man is a philosophical, funny and flatulent delight that deserves to be talked about as one of the greatest films of the year.

Verdict
5/5

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