Swiss Army Man (2016): Film Review

Directed by: Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
Starring: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe
Viewed: Phoenix Cinema, Leicester, 12/10/16

A young man stranded on a desert island, who is on the verge of killing himself due to his hopeless situation, spots a body that has washed ashore. The young man subsequently becomes friends with the dead body, called Manny, and the two of them begin an adventure to try and return home. No, ladies and gentleman, this is not your typical movie-going experience. Oh and by the way, the dead body cannot stop farting, just because befriending a dead body wasn’t weird enough already.

I have a huge amount of respect for Daniel Radcliffe, he has grown up in the spotlight as part of a franchise that could have had him typecast as the young wizard forever more, but he has managed to become a respected (and quite brilliant) actor. He has taken all kinds of weird and wonderful roles that has showcased his talent, in order to break away from the world of Harry Potter, though I think it is fair to say, this is probably the most daring and bizarre role he has taken yet. I never imagined someone could play the part of a dead body and still command the screen in the way Daniel was able to in Swiss Army Man. Paul Dano also shines in his role as Hank, and I would confidently say there are oscar nominations to be seen in his future.

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In terms of the film itself, it really is gorgeously shot, with some stunning cinematography throughout. Don’t go into this film expecting a complex plot, as that isn’t really the point of Swiss Army Man. It is a story that focuses on human interaction, philosophy, society and produces a fair amount of humour along the way. Hank tries to teach Manny about love, life and generally how the world works from his perspective, whilst also seeking to return home. It’s no Frodo and Sam, but the events that happen along the way transforms their journey into an adventure. This isn’t an easy film to summarise, as I don’t want to spoil too much and each person will take from it something different, it certainly isn’t for everyone and it has no real comparison to anything that currently exists. The soundtrack really is fantastic, and helps create some genuinely beautiful moments in some otherwise bizarre scenes.

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Swiss Army Man is a truly original film that provides plenty of entertainment and humour. It is probably the best performance I’ve ever seen Daniel Radcliffe give. The final few scenes of Swiss Army Man don’t do your brain any favours, trying to uncover and understand what exactly is going on, and what it all means, but don’t let that deter you from an otherwise solid film. Audiences generally complain (including myself) about the lack of originality in the film industry, if you are one of these people, do yourself a favour and go and watch this film.

Swiss Army Man is a beautifully mind-boggling – 7/10

Fun fact: A life-sized ‘Manny’ doll was made to be used throughout the film, but Daniel Radcliffe insisted on being in every scene. The doll was only used for a couple of shots where it was too dangerous for Radcliffe to film. Paul Dano even carried Radcliffe on his back, rather than using the much lighter doll.

Stuart Keating