Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Swiss Army Man (4 Stars)

I went to see this film at the Metropol cinema in Stuttgart today. It's fortunate that I live in Germany, as far as films go. This is the second Daniel Radcliffe film in a row that's been boycotted by UK cinemas. The first was "Imperium". Maybe people who lived in London had a chance to see them, but my friends who live in the tiny little town Birmingham missed out on these two films, each remarkable in its own way.

The film starts with a man on a deserted island. He calls himself  Hank, although as we later find out that's not his real name. It's not clear how long he's been there, but he's in a state of depression. He's about to hang himself when he sees a corpse washed up on the beach. He tries to revive the corpse by giving it the kiss of life, but it's too late. When the corpse farts Hank thinks that there's some life left in it, so he takes the corpse back to the beach and they become friends.

Note: I did some research on the subject, and corpses really do fart, especially if they've been in the water.

This is a buddy movie of a different kind. Two men bond after meeting under extreme circumstances. The only problem is that one man is alive and the other is dead. Hank talks to the corpse as he carries him around the island. After a while the corpse talks back and introduces himself as Manny. It's not giving anything away to say that the corpse is only talking in Hank's imagination. Hank sees Manny as only half dead and thinks he can reanimate him by encouraging him to talk about his previous life. Hank even dresses as a woman whose photo he finds on Manny's mobile phone and teaches Manny how to flirt with her.

It's a ridiculous comedy, but it does have a serious side. Hank and Manny engage in conversations about the meaning of life, raising many important questions. Towards the end of the film there are some surprises, i.e. plot twists, that tell the audience that things weren't exactly as Hank portrayed them in his conversations. Was he imagining them, in the same way that he saw Manny as alive, or deliberately lying to his new friend? That's not certain. Watch it for yourself and make up your own mind.

I still haven't decided what I think about Paul Dano as an actor. He's been in a few films, but the first time I paid attention to him was in his role as Brian Wilson in "Love & Mercy", one of the best films of 2015. It's not easy to judge him on his goofy role as Hank in "Swiss Army Man". I'll watch out for him in the future. If anything, the best actor in this film is Daniel Radcliffe, especially in the scenes where he isn't talking and he's only a corpse.

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