Review: Swiss Army Man

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A serious contender for the award for single most deranged concept of the year, you will doubtless have heard of Swiss Army Man long in advance of its somewhat subdued pre-release marketing campaign – though it’s entirely possible that you know it as “the farting corpse movie” rather than by its actual title. Nevertheless, on a very distinctive rep, the finished film arrives, shocking audiences mostly with the reality that it’s actually rather good. Divisive, no doubt, but with a singular vision, a pair of genuinely winning leads, a script full of nuance and heart, and some frankly snort-inducing physical comedy, Swiss Army Man’s the perfect water-cooler film with which to kick off the fall movie season.

Paul Dano plays downtrodden-youth-turned-castaway Hank, whose solitary stay on a desert island has lead him, in the opening of this story, to the decision to end his own life. Before he can make good on his desires, however, Hank notices a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe’s, to be precise) wash up upon the shore, and soon realises that his new necrotic friend may be the utilitarian key to finding his way home. As he begins to make use of the body – which he names Manny – as a sort of multi-functioned swiss-army tool with which to aid his journey, Hank finds himself forming an unlikely friendship with the cadaverous comrade – something made all the more whole by his inadvertently reanimating him…

Most eyes will doubtless be on Radcliffe’s off-kilter role in this equally off-kilter picture, and – credit where it’s due – Radcliffe does continue to impressively build upon his craft with each new role, here adding a previously unseen aptitude for physical comedy to his repertoire. It’s Dano’s show, however. He may well be one of the most consistent yet undervalued actors working today, and Swiss Army Man allows the young thesp more than ample room to strut his stuff, with requisitely understated heft. The pair work incredibly well together, their chemistry natural yet fed exquisitely by a sublimely realised and well-defined screenplay, as much about brotherhood and humanity as it is merely “Castaway with a corpse”.

Said screenplay comes by way of Daniels, the directorial duo formed by Daniel Scheinart and Daniel Kwan. With a terrific visual eye and an admirable ability to inject their world with the wonder needed to firmly remove it from reality – a third act cold-light-of-day reveal borders on profound – the men who brought us Lil John’s Turn Down For What video reveal themselves to have a fresh, exciting and edgy voice, more than capable of rocking the indie cinema boat with gusto. With ballistic momentum, a bonkers concept, and the most sincerely touching bromance in years, Swiss Army Man is an absolute triumph of quirk, vision, chemistry and creativity. It’ll divide a mainstream audience, for sure, but even those unable to warm to its heartfelt core will bear more than a begrudging appreciation for what’s afloat here.

Swiss Army Man is in cinemas nationwide from Friday, September 30th; rated 15. Check out the trailer below.

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