Inha Kim is back for this exceptional review of “Swiss Army Man.” Yes, it makes me want to see it. Enjoy!
The Most Rewarding Fart of 2016
Ever watched a film so strange, so bizarre, so… unique, that you had to see it again the moment it ended? No? Well you just might do that with this movie. Never have I ever seen such a film with such a flair for its own weirdness. It is nuts. It is crazy. It is absolutely insane. And it is my favorite film of 2016 thus far. What’s so great about it you ask? Perhaps a synopsis will help.
The film was directed by two first-time directors called “the Daniels,” and it stars Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe (Four different Dans in this one movie. Must’ve been one confusing set to work in). It follows the story of Hank (Dano), a man stranded on a deserted island who’s on the brink of suicide. Just as he’s about to hang himself, he sees a corpse wash up on the shore. The corpse being played by Daniel Radcliffe. After investigating the corpse for a while, he learns that this thing can fart and become a jetski, light fires with its fingers, shoot out whatever you stuff down its throat like a bullet, cut wires with its teeth, chop wood with its hands, and last but not least, talk. The corpse, affectionately named “Manny” by our main character, is innocent and uninformed like a child. He starts to ask questions about life to Hank, and throughout their different conversations they become friends as they try to return home together.
I normally don’t recommend viewing the trailer before a movie, but in this case, I think that you need to see its trailer for you to truly appreciate this film. Not even my synopsis above can do it justice. You can’t read this movie. You need to see it. You need to feel it. It is more than just a film. It is an experience. This is a blazingly original film full of surprises, humor, and depth.
The Actors – Paul Dano, in my opinion, is perhaps one of the most underrated actors of our time. And it is a sad thing to say when looking at the luminous performance he gives in this movie. The emotions he feels. The turmoil. The sadness. The emptiness. The regret. He pours them out onto the screen viscerally, yet ever so gently. He gives it his all with every frame yet he never oversells it. Not only is he proficient in the emotional scenes, but in the funny scenes too. Paul Dano displays some incredible comedic timing in this film (this movie is largely a comedy by the way), alongside his costar Daniel Radcliffe, who may just have given his best performance in his entire career. I’ve heard some people ask “isn’t it easy playing a dead guy?” to those people I say, have you tried it? Radcliffe gives an entirely convincing performance as a corpse in this film, with subtle details like constantly staring into the middle distance while slightly cross-eyed, opening one eye a little wider than the other, having his jaw slack slightly to one side, and never moving any other muscle while being stiff due to rigor mortis. But at the same time, he never forgets to be a loveable character. He is endlessly amiable and often times hilarious in this film, as a corpse that is just so curious about life. So I ask again, have you ever tried to act like a corpse that is also funny and likeable?
The Soundtrack – Normally, music doesn’t play a huge role for me in films. But when the music is good, I will definitely take notice. This film’s soundtrack is composed entirely of the works by an indie acapella band, and not only do their songs fit the mood of their corresponding scenes, they actually narrate the events happening on screen. How brilliant is that? The music plays an integral part in this movie to bring to life the wacky, zany, childlike joy that is present throughout the entire runtime. It brilliantly rides the line between being just noticeable and being completely distracting. It was perfect for this film.
The Story – This film has one of the most original stories I’ve ever seen in film. One could argue that the plot itself isn’t all that (and to be fair, the plot of this film in and of itself isn’t really special), but I think that a good story doesn’t always require an ingenious plot. In this day and age, a truly original plot for a movie is near impossible to come by. It is how the storyteller uses the characters and their personalities, and how he mixes them into plot that makes the story unique. Swiss Army Man may have a relatively simple story about two lost people trying to make their way back, but it is the absurdly unique premise of the two leads, and their hilariously childlike yet intricately mature conversations, and the almost too human relationship that develops between the two that makes this movie stand out.
The Concept – A movie about a talking, farting corpse. To the general public, this idea seems bizarre. Too bizarre. Almost invasively bizarre. When this film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year, the audience for this film was more or less divided in two. One half was amazed and spellbound by the film’s wonder, while the other half booed and walked out. Needless to say, I was part of the half that loved it. If you think the concept is stupid, hear me out. In most other films, fart jokes are seen as the lowest common denominator of comedy. It is the most uninventive, uninspiring, easy joke one could make. But the farts in this film (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) transcend the bounds of low-brow humor. The film uses farts, among other “socially unacceptable” bodily functions, as metaphors for things we hide from people we love, such as secrets and things we’ve done that we’re ashamed of, even though everyone is “guilty” of them. The film uses its own bizarre nature to convey the message that it is okay to be different and unique. Because we all are.
I’d normally do a Bad and Ugly section right now, but I didn’t have any problems with this film that would justify having those sections in this review. I suppose the film is a little slow with its opening, and the imagery and message of this film may cross into the bounds of pretentiousness for some, but what I experienced in this film cannot be recreated by lesser directors. No film has toyed with my expectations and emotions since last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road. In the endless line of corporate cash-grabs that is Hollywood, this film is the first artistic gem in years. I give this film a 9/10.