Swiss Army Man (2016) Reviewed

Swiss Army Man directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

Starring – Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Meet Hank (Paul Dano), he’s been stranded on a deserted island and wants to be dead. Meet Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), he is dead and washes up on the shore of that very same deserted island. Where Hank has given up on life and tried to run away from it in the first place, Manny doesn’t even know what life is and wants to run towards it. In a chance pairing, the two end up learning new things about what life really is.

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After hyping over this film for quite some time I was finally able to watch it on the Monday of this week and wow it was an experience. I knew from the off that the film was going to be a little out there and that was even more evident from the fact that despite attending the first screening of the film there were probably only ten of us in the audience. The bizarre tone was set almost immediately with a hilarious opening that threw the audience straight into the films unique world. Hank, having clearly been stranded on an island for quite some time finally escapes by riding on the back of a fart propelled corpse, using him as a flatulence powered jet-ski. Its strange, a little immature, but for the most part created a lot of laughs within the audience.

Escaping the island, Hank finds himself washed up on the shore of another island and sets off exploring and trying to find other humans and you get the sense that all is not quite right in Hank’s mind as he decides to carry the farting corpse with him. Eventually finding nighttime shelter in a cave, Hank seemingly finds comfort talking to his dead friend and opens up to him. The following morning, Hank’s sudden need to live and find people once again is reinforced by the corpses supposed reanimation and his desire to learn what life really is. Travelling and teaching, the now named corpse, Manny, accompanies Hank on his physical journey back home while at the same time taking Hank on an emotional journey as he reminds him of what life means.

Stripped down Swiss Army Man is a journey film where a central character undertakes a physical journey in which a travelling companion assists and also takes him on an emotional journey. There are some touching moments between the two central characters and the film does make you think, but having watched the film with my boyfriend who comes from a completely none film student perspective, he didn’t pick up on those elements till I mentioned them afterwards. The film for the most part is shrouded by the fact it’s about a corpse that is reanimating the more he learns about life. Sounds alright? The corpse isn’t reanimating in the generic sense you would expect but is gaining magical powers that turns him into a literal swiss army man, able to chop down trees and produce water when necessary. It could almost come across as a mainstream film if it was just a generic corpse reanimation but the super powers add a level of bizarre to the film that’s hard to ignore.

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I really enjoyed the film but it’s not one for an average mass audience. The storyline is fine but where I thought I’d successfully grasped an interpretation of it, the ending of the film completely blew up my theory and left me a little confused. It’s funny and like I keep saying, it does have some really quite touching moments but I think it needs another watch before I fully get it. My boyfriend came out the film completely baffled and I think I’ve scarred him for life in terms of my future film choices. We did both agree on a few points, however. The music is brilliant. It’s not a redeeming quality for films, I won’t argue that, but it’s a soundtrack I’ll be looking out for and assisted in making the audience feel uplifted at the appropriate moments.

We also both thought that in terms of the acting in the film, Paul Dano is absolutely brilliant. I’m a big lover of his work anyway but he is really really good in this role and carries the emotions of the film well with his performance. Considering he spent most of the opening of the film carrying it on his own, acting opposite a corpse, he did an incredible job. Despite my earlier criticisms of Radcliffe’s potential abilities within the film, he was okay. There were moments where I cringed at his performance but for the most part he was quite convincing and quite funny.

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The final point we both adamantly agreed on was the amount of fart and erection jokes. It may seem like a really silly point to feel the need to make, but if you ever decide to watch Swiss Army Man you’ll see what I mean. When they were both used for the first time, it was funny, but after a while it became tiring and boring. The film wasn’t just relying on the humour from these elements so it didn’t ruin anything on that front but it was just overdone.

It’s a good film. You aren’t going to sit through it completely bored, chances are there’s something you’ll enjoy within it. The storyline is something completely different and from that perspective it makes it stand out but I will admit that not everyone is going to want to watch it again. You will spend most of the film confused and disbelieving but I definitely want to watch it again.

 

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