Swiss Army Man
Director(s): Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Writer(s): Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe and Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Jun 24, 2016 - Wide
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Swiss Army Man introduces us to Hank (Paul Dano), a young man stranded on a desert island who has lost all hope. As he prepares to end it all, he suddenly spies a body washed up on the shore. His attempts at resuscitation direct him to the realization that his new companion is a flatulent corpse (Daniel Radcliffe). Naming him Manny, Hank soon realizes that this dead man may in fact be the best friend he’s ever had. As Hank teaches his dead friend about life, the two embark on an adventure to discover a way home.
Directed by music video directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan (known as DANIELS), Swiss Army Man is simultaneously odd, sweet, sad and joyful. It plays as both a psychological journey into Hank’s loneliness and trauma and as a modern-day fairy tale, where a talking corpse with magical flatulence can be the best friend a guy could ever have. Scheinert and Kwan, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, commit to this friendship and its circumstances wholeheartedly from frame one and the audience is rewarded if they suspend their disbelief immediately and go along for the ride. Of course, it’s not just up to DANIELS to take us for the ride, we have to want to spend time with the two main characters and Dano and Radcliffe make that a very easy task.
Dano is heartbreaking as Hank, a man who was lonelier in the outside world than he is on the island, where at least he has a friend. Hank has been invisible for a long time to those around him and Dano captures this perfectly. He also captures the light and joy of friendship as he teaches his new companion about life and romance and belonging.
Radcliffe, who of course started his career with the huge Harry Potter franchise, continues to show audiences that he’s dedicated to the craft of acting by taking on these interesting roles and giving it his all. Kermit the Frog always said “it’s not easy being green” but when that pallor is the result of being a flatulent corpse, well, that’s a whole other acting challenge. Radcliffe brings life to being dead and commits to playing a character with limited speech patterns and movements that are basically controlled by Dano.
The fact that we can have a deeply touching, exuberant and unique buddy film where one of the buddies is dead is a testament to the creators of this category of one film. Everything from the cinematography, to the effects, to the music serve the story well. The level of commitment to the project needed to get the viewers on board is evident everywhere.
In a cinematic world of franchises and remakes, where originality seems to be all but dead, you need to do yourself a favour and carve out some time to see Swiss Army Man.
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