Directed By: Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
Starring: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe
Review Author: Adam Monks
Rating: 2.5/5 Smashed up cans
Swiss Army Man was one of those trailers that put me slap bang in the middle of my feelings regarding the film. On one hand I was intrigued by the imagery, the potential of what the story of the trailer set up, and more importantly a burning curiosity that I’m sure everyone else who has seen it had. A curiosity based in ‘will it be real?’. On the other hand- I had to worry. Is a farting Daniel Radcliffe and a love sick Paul Dano enough to carry a concept film?
The film does an amazing job of building a relationship and exploring a parent/child dynamic through the minefield of ‘trying not to screw up your child with your own problems and anxieties’. As the bloated corpse of Daniel Radcliffe comes back to life he slowly gains more and more abilities…but knows nothing at all about anything. At the start he is completely empty headed, unable to understand anything and full of naive questions about life that a frustrated Paul Dano answers as they track through the jungle. The more he answers the more of an insight you get into this very damaged, and as the story unfolds, unstable man.
The story jumps through a few sincere messages quite quickly and shifts the dynamic between the new best friends to some very very interesting places. At some points there is complete innocence, at others there is terrifying tension and all the while you’re wondering when the story is going to break. But it never does, it hangs onto it’s tale of this magic Swiss Army Man all the way through. I feel like the ending is very open to debate and to be honest I still don’t know what side of the debate to take.
I want to watch this again- for one to try and understand some of the darker tones that come out towards the end. But the main reason is the absolutely beautiful visual portrayals of love and longing. The soundtrack is something that I am relentlessly tracking down to be reminded of the incredible building moments that are created in the film. As the characters start off this tribal ominous humming that becomes an absolute show-stealer for the scene it’s in. If even for a sensory feast of music and displays creating painfully real emotions onto the screen you should watch this movie.
It does change, though. It gets dark- and not in the way you would imagine. Perhaps the wrong character is saved. The opening scene of Dano’s attempted suicide sets a tone that makes you wonder how the situation would have unfolded had he not spotted the corpse wash up on the beach. The film plays with the lines of reality/fantasy all the way through for the audience- then it becomes real. The child like make believe that you think you’re seeing with the main character and his new play thing turns dark as it is revealed that he also has a hard time recognising the blurred line between real and not real when it comes to his long lost love. I won’t go any further as I will end up spoiling the story for you, but I would strongly suggest you see this piece. It surprised me.
You may notice I’ve given it a historically low rating in the context of all the positive things I’m saying about this. The reason for that is the ending. Much like Birdman (discussed below) the film’s ending is just a little too vague for me. It’s ambiguous to the point where one of two things is true about it: either it’s true- and there’s no redemption/consequences for what unfolds that gives some closure to the audience. Or it’s not, and the lack of real life reveal is a cop out that keeps you in never land. There’s a way to do ambiguous endings that won’t piss of an audience rather leave them guessing, Nolan is the master at it. This is not the way a vague ending should be- it leaves you saying ‘WFT?’ rather than ‘Hmm..’
Everything I’ve read is focusing on the right things; when the trailer broke all people could focus on was the farting, and yes, it is excessive. The film has some over the top scenes with the farting but get past it and it is a truly enjoyable, dark, witty and beautiful film.
It’s very similar to The Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) in that you’re not really sure if you’re an outsider looking in on madness or if the madness is real. In terms of reality vs morals vs values it’s almost an exact copy. If you enjoyed that you’ll enjoy this, and the same is true.
If anyone knows where I can find more music like the music in the film then Tweet to us @ReelTimeDublin and let me know!
Yeah, I thought the Birdman ending was a bit naff . . .
Works when it’s being weird. But when it tries to be about “something” it doesn’t quite work. Nice review.