Swiss Army Man is a 2016 black comedy film. Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (aka DANIELS) and starring Paul Dano (Prisoners, There Will be Blood), Daniel Radcliffe (The Woman in Black, Horns) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane, The Thing). The film won the diecting award at Sundance film festival.
The film follows the plight of Hank (Dano), a depressed man who’s been marooned on an island and is about to hang himself when he is interrupted by the farting corpse of Manny (Radcliffe) washing up on the shore. After using Manny as a jet ski, propelled by the afore mentioned flatulence, the pair make it to a remote part of the mainland. Hank soon discovers Manny has several different powers that can help him to survive in the wilderness doubling as a well, a gun and an erection based compass, to name a few. As Manny is slowly brought back to life, Hank has to teach him about the world and society, even though Hank himself is a shy introvert and barely functioning member of society. Their mutual love of the mysterious Sarah (Winstead) eventually leads them back to civilisation, however, other people are not quite ready for Hank and Manny’s unconventional relationship.
Swiss Army Man garnered a lot of attention at its Sundance premiere owing to the fact that quite a famous actor was portraying a gassy cadaver. This is entirely understandable, however, this device is really part of a larger unique comedic style, intended to provide relief for Dano’s somewhat depressing character. What attracted me to the film was the brilliant cast. Dano has slowly been building a reputation as one of the best actors of his generation for a number of years, Radcliffe has obliterated any child actor stigma through a series of strong genre films and Winstead, despite being in a limited role here, is simply one of the finest actors in the world right now and I would watch her in anything (even Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter!).
The performances on display here are outstanding. Beyond Radcliffe’s quirky physical comedy there is a fantastic homage to Frankenstein’s monster as he transforms from a primitive, childlike brute into a fully emotive human, trying to remember a life that was lost. Dano is the straight man in this strange double act, lending real pathos to the film as we delve into Hank’s anxious romantic fantasies and the chemistry between the misfit characters is as heartwarming as it is perverse. Ultimately, the film has a lot to say on modern society and what is considered socially acceptable or not and many of the seemingly throwaway lines of dialogue exchanged in the style of the buddy movie, will linger in the mind for some time afterwards.
Dismiss it as “the farting corpse” film at your own peril, this is far more intelligent and sensitive a film than the sensational “sundance walkout” stories suggest. DANIELS are off to a great start and Dano and Radcliffe have another instant classic to add to their credits. Weird and wonderful in every way, for every 20 remakes or sequels there is a truly original film and, this year, it’s Swiss Army Man.
***** 5 Stars
What did you think of the film? Did you like the dark quirky comedy?