“Swiss Army Man” (2015)
Hank (Paul Dano) has been barely surviving on a deserted island with no hope of rescue, very few resources and his will to live dwindling day by day. Just as he is about to hang himself from a cliff, he notices that a body (Daniel Radcliffe) has washed up on the beach in front of him.
Hank rushes over to the body, thinking that this could be the companion that he needs to relieve the insanity of living alone for so long on the island. Much to his dismay, after attempts to save the person, he realizes that the body is too far along to be revived. After a bit of soul-searching, Hank decides to go ahead with his suicide. Just as he is about to kick the cooler out from under his feet and do the deed, he notices something about the body that just might help him get off his island. It seems that the dead body just might be his tool to survival and his mental health.
“Swiss Army Man” is a touching, funny, highly inventive film from the writing/directing team of Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, known together as the Daniels. Right off the bat, I will warn you that this film isn’t for everybody. It takes a bit of a strong stomach for a few of the scenes and at my Atlanta screening, two couples left at different times, deciding that this film wasn’t for them. If you like weird, offbeat films that have a strange sense of humor, then this just might be your type of movie. This is an ambitious attempt at something wonderfully unique. This movie is incredibly weird and different; I would have loved to be in on the pitch that the Daniels did for the investors of the film. How many times did they have to go back and mention that Dano and Radcliffe had agreed to do the movie before the backers were convinced?
Almost the whole movie is with just Dano and Radcliffe on the screen, and Radcliffe does a remarkable job of playing the corpse in the first third of the film. While Radcliffe has to play the un-expressive corpse, it’s Dano that had to do the heavy lifting in the movie (both figuratively and literally). Throughout the film, Dano is asked to carry the load of their “conversations,” and he does it with incredible comic timing. There is excellent chemistry between the two actors, making each scene work with ease and to sometimes surprisingly touching effect. Both actors have incredible control over their bodies, making the physical comedy, which at times becomes almost “Three Stooge-like”, some of the best scenes of the film.
The film has a tendency to do a few jokes/comedic scenes that only a third grader would love, and there are just too many fart jokes that become a little tiring after a while, but those are some minor problems in such an original script. My biggest problem with the film is that the Daniels write themselves into a corner that they really can’t get their characters out of, making the ending of the film seem abrupt and not up to the inventiveness of the rest of the movie. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible score for the film by Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of the rock band Manchester Orchestra. There are a number of scenes that don’t have any dialogue, and the music greatly increases the emotional tone of the film. The minimalist score fits the film perfectly, and its use of a cappella singing is brilliant, at times contributing greatly to the comedic scenes.
A few critics have compared this film to the 1989 comedy “Weekend at Bernie’s” but that film’s creativity went away during the first five minutes of the movie, making it unfair to compare the two movies. Because “Swiss Army Man” is so different, mixing broad comedy aspects with some very sweet, tender moments and combines a unique script with two strong performances even mentioning the other film would be a great disservice to this creative and original movie. Go see this funny, unusual and eccentric film. It’s worth the ticket price to go on a survival adventure with Hank and his strange buddy. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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