#REVIEW: “SWISS ARMY MAN”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Very few Films genuinely divide audiences in camps of love it or hate it. But at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Swiss Army Man did just that. People walked out minutes into the Film while others booed. And an entirely different group of people laughed and cheered it on. It was one of the most talked about Films of the festival, and had been on my radar for months waiting to find out what all the fuss was about. Even the packed theatre I saw the Film in was warned of the Film’s notoriety moments before the lights went out.
Knowing all of that going in, I never thought I would love a Movie where one of the main characters is a farting corpse.
Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on a deserted island. How he got there is not important – he is preparing to hang himself seconds after we meet him. As he takes his last breath, he notices a man in a suit wash up on shore. The man, who we later discover is named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), begins to fart uncontrollably despite being clearly dead. Hank seizes the moment and uses Manny’s flatulence to help propel the pair off the island towards civilization.
All of what I just described happens in the first ten minutes of Swiss Army Man’s brisk 95-minute running time. And this is the point when the writing/directing duo credited as Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) give you the option to either run away screaming or strap-in for one of the strangest and most unique Films of this or any other year. The journey Hank and Manny take to survive makes up the crux of the Film, and it is simultaneously hilarious and ludicrous. Daniels double down on their wildly unpredictable script with increasingly-ostentatious visuals, painting a colourful fantasy with darker tendencies. While the Film’s final twenty-minute stretch is a bit of a mixed bag, the pair do their best to tap into real ideas about friendship, life and humanity. This may sound silly based on my description of the plot, but believe me when I say it becomes deeply moving and emotional.
What really drives the Movie and makes it so spectacular are the performances by Dano and Radcliffe. Both have proven their worth as actors in dramatic and comedic roles before, but pairing these two young talents together is nothing short of extraordinary. They play-off each other brilliantly, and dive head-first into their roles no matter what absolutely preposterous thing they are asked to. Dano does most of the heavy lifting and brings both a finesse and a quiet sadness to his part. I do not want to ruin what happens with Radcliffe’s character over the course of the Film, but suffice to say the sense of wonder he brings to Manny is powerful and often poignant. This is a Movie about learning what it is like to be human in more ways than one, and both actors play into that idea wonderfully.
Swiss Army Man needs to be seen to be believed. It is genuinely one of the weirdest and most certifiably-insane Films I have ever experienced, and one I urge everyone to see as soon as they can. Dano and Radcliffe are simply marvelous together, and the visuals created by Daniels will be some of the best we see all year. One of the leads may be playing a corpse, but I doubt you will ever look at what makes us human the same way again.
D Films release SWISS ARMY MAN in select theatres on Friday, July 1, 2016 and will expand starting Friday, July 8, 2016.