Swiss Army Man
Starring: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe
A review by Ryan M. Holt
Swiss Army Man is a movie about many things at once. This is a movie that can be about accepting death, fatherhood, childhood, dependence on technology, man vs nature and much more. The film won the well deserved Directing Award (Dramatic) at Sundance this year. The real crime was that it wasn’t nominated for anything else.
The movie opens with Hank, played miraculously by Paul Dano, trying to hang himself after being stranded on an island. Just as he is about to take his final step, he notices a corpse washed up on the beach. After discovering the corpse, Hank uses the propulsion of the corpses’ farts to return to the mainland. Hank refuses to leave the corpse on the beach, and that is where the real magic of the film begins. The corpse starts showing signs of life after Hank spends a night in a cave talking to himself. Through a hilarious taste of what is to come, the corpse is dubbed Manny.
Daniel Radcliffe brings a subtle, but brilliant, amount of life to Manny. Manny starts as a child, asking Hank to describe to him things like movies and singing. Through describing these things to Manny, Hank starts to become more rounded, and faces his own internal fears while exposing Manny to the joys of life. This curiosity brings about one of the most frank and beautiful conversations about masturbation I have ever witnessed. Manny meanwhile is taking it all in in an effort to remember his past life in hopes to guide the pair home. The ensuing learning period grows both characters and is full of so much heart, truth and humor that it is impossible not to believe the magic that unfolds.
Through a series of accidental discoveries, Hank finds Manny to be incredibly useful. Sometimes Manny’s body will be used in a practical way. He can be used to construct elaborate tools, or give Hank a shower. Other times Manny acts as a fart propelled corpse rocket. And none of these choices ever seems out of place.
Swiss Army Man also features some of the best sound design I have ever heard. The foley work on the movie is stunning and fully incorporated into the soundtrack. Nature comes alive through emotional chants and thunderous drum beats as you cheer for both Hank and Manny.
The only downside I would say this movie has is the last ten minutes, but only because of the tonal differences from the rest of the story. The ending is satisfying in itself, but the steps it takes to get over that final story hump are a little off balance. The journey is so fresh and unique that you find yourself remembering everything but the ending. You root for Hank to find himself and you feel that Manny is a person. Overall, Swiss Army Man is a masterpiece of emotional transcendence.
See It. Run to your theater and find the first showing you can. I am still completely awe-struck from last night, and I am looking at my calendar next week to figure out when I can see it again. I immediately came home and purchased the soundtrack and have been listening to it non-stop since. The film is in wide release this weekend and I urge everyone to see it.