By Michael Kaye
Swiss Army Man (Review)
This has got to be one of the most fascinating weekends at the movies I'm having so far this year. Two things that all of these movies supposedly have in common are amazing visuals, and creative uses of bodily functions? Ok, let's cut to the chase, today's movie is one that I've been looking forward to ever since it premiered at Sundance, and has unofficially adopted the tagline "the farting corpse movie." This is Swiss Army Man, directed by Daniels and starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe.
Here's the story. Alone on a tiny deserted island, Hank has given up all hope of ever making it home again. But one day everything changes when a dead body washes ashore, and he soon realizes it may be his last opportunity to escape certain death. Armed with his new “friend” and an unusual bag of tricks, the duo go on an epic adventure to bring Hank back to the woman of his dreams.
Allow me to apologize in advanced if this review is barely comprehensible, as no amount of explaining could ever really do this film justice. Don't get me wrong, that's not a bad thing, in fact I think this is one of the best films of the year, especially if you're as weird as these characters. Here are some of the highlights.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, easily the best part of this movie is the two leading actors, Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. You have to be 100% committed to this kind of role if you're going to make it work, and Radcliffe most certainly hits a bullseye. It's been about 5 years since the Harry Potter franchise came to a close, and he's really come a long way, taking risks with his career that look to be paying off. Paul Dano I've always been a fan of, ever since I first saw him in Little Miss Sunshine, which might have been my first true independent film. These two actors have great chemistry, and the bond that their characters form throughout the film was beautiful to witness. I hope we get to see these two paired more often in the future, as they're now one of my favorite on screen duos.
The movie was written and directed by a pair of Daniels, specifically Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. I haven't seen any of their shorts, though I hear some pretty good things. This is their feature film debut, and boy is it something else. It'd be easy to just call this "Castaway meets Weekend at Bernie's and 127 Hours," but there's so much more to it than that. I took a lot away from this movie, but its major recurring themes are love, friendship and survival. I bet a lot of people who didn't like this movie are probably not going to use "nothing happens" as a criticism, since at least 75% of the movie is made up of just Hank talking to Manny, basically teaching him to how to live again while Manny uses his "special powers" to help them find their way back to civilization.
This is the second movie in a row that has the most creative use of farts that I've ever seen on the big screen. I'm not sure if any other director could have pulled that off the way the Daniels did, and even then I'm still in shock by what I just witnessed. But there's more to Manny than just a farting corpse. Hank describes him as a "multi purpose tool," hence the title being a play on Swiss Army knife.
Finally, what I really liked about this movie was the music, written by Andy Hull and Robert McDowell from the indie rock band Manchester Orchestra. Dano and Radcliffe also get to sing in this movie, and it's pretty amazing. I don't know if that technically makes this a musical, but I can definitely picture one of the tracks getting nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars.
What else can I say about Swiss Army Man? It's just one of those "you had to be there" kind of movies. It will not be for everyone, but if you're willing to give yourself to the movie, I think you'll really enjoy it. You'd think I wouldn't have to keep repeating myself, but people don't listen, so here it is one more time (for now): if you like seeing original movies in theaters, go see this movie! And if you don't, you no longer have the right to complain about "too many remakes/reboot/sequels etc."
Now I wanna hear from you guys! Have you seen Swiss Army Man, and if so what did you think? Also, what are some of your favorite independent movies from the past couple years? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, where I'm observing an important American tradition in The Purge: Election Year.