By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is a bit of a mad one. I caught Swiss Army Man in a busy Phoenix theatre which left everyone racking their brains when the credits rolled.
Written by the duo Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known for their quirkiness, their imagination has potentially peaked with this movie.
Swiss Army Man stars Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano in roles completely out of the ordinary…
Swiss Army Man is a very unusual indie dramedy about a man named Hank (Paul Dano) stranded on a desert island who befriends a corpse called Manny (Daniel Radcliffe, in a decided departure from Harry Potter) and manages to persevere. Together, they go on a surreal journey to get home.
We first meet the two protagonists in dire straits. Manny is washed up onto an island where Hank is trying, unsuccessfully, to kill himself. Hank sees this as a mission to get home with Manny in tow. Along the way, their friendship strangely blossoms into the oddest bromance you’ll see on screen this year, if not ever.
Hank slowly but surely brings Manny back to, well, half-life where he can talk, ask questions and do super-human jobs for Hank. For instance, the first scene is one of the best opening sequences I witnessed from a film. We see Hank ride Manny like a jet-ski, but that isn’t the weirdest part… Manny’s lifeless body is powered by the ability to fart through the waves – utterly joyous.
Swiss Army Man is packed with surreal scenes including Manny getting aroused at a picture of the girl Hank is lusting over. Hank’s phone has pictures of Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) on it that Manny stares at whilst his penis, that looks like it has a mind of its own, dances away in his pants.
There’s just something alluring about Swiss Army Man. I can see why a lot of people think it’s absurd but I can also see its quality – the film is the definition of marmite. I find it reminiscent to Hunt For The Wilderpeople, it has a charm about it except it is multiplied by a hundred. Daniel Radcliffe said recently on a chat show that “it is his proudest work to date” and I can see why. From the outset, it looks quite simple to play a ‘dead man’ that farts but his performance is so much more than that, and in fact, so is the film.
Radcliffe is humorous and full of personality in this film without even having to move. The brotherly scenes between Daniel and Paul are beautiful to watch as their chemistry blooms. Paul Dano has a very difficult job in Swiss Army Man as he is the glue to the production. With a runtime just under two hours, he is the person who must tell the story as Manny is a passer-by like the audience. Dano turns in one of his career-best performances and is a delight to watch on screen.
The real masters here though are the writing duo. Kwan and Scheinert deliver a bizarre, original, risk-taking independent movie that's increasingly rare to find in an era of superhero and dystopian franchises. It’s refreshing and pack full of beautifully strange ideas that sometimes have a disturbing aspect to them, but ultimately, this is a touching tale of a unique friendship.
The imagery used, the camera angles and the subtle filming techniques are a dream to watch on the big screen. Some of the best scenes include a bus made of sticks, slow-motion swimming with Radcliffe’s bare arse showing and finally a montage of Manny’s many talents in action including his arm hammering through pieces of wood and him shooting things out of his bum.
Swiss Army Man is an extraordinary movie that will have you thinking for days. Your judgement is hazy when you first leave the theatre but once the dust settles, you know this movie has plucked on your heartstrings.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
Swiss Army Man is currently screening around the UK – certificate 15