By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Infamously known as the “farting corpse movie,” Swiss Army Man, all flatulence aside, is probably the most bizarre and most unique film of the year (so far). At the same time, this movie might also be the most imaginative and heartwarming fantasy film of the year. Unfortunately, the flatulent corpse aspect of the film has already turned some people off and I’m thinking that box office receipts will suffer because of its reputation. I would love to say, “Oh well, that’s the loss of those closed minded individuals.” However, I’m afraid that the lack of warm bodies filling the seats will suppress any future work of the filmmakers who made this truly remarkable film. I implore anyone with an open mind, heart, and soul to ignore any naysayers or detractors and go see this movie. Swiss Army Man may be about a bromance between a living man in despair and a flatulent corpse, but it is also one of the best movies this year.
Paul Dano stars as Hank, a lone man stranded in the wilderness on the verge of committing suicide. While attempting to hang himself, Hank notices the body of another young man (Daniel Radcliffe) washing up on the beach. Hank attempts to revive the unconscious gentleman, but soon realizes that his efforts are in vain. Lonely, hungry, desperate and in a starvation-induced haze, Hank names the corpse Manny whom he discovers has supernatural abilities in addition to the ability of speech. Manny’s friendship not only helps Hank survive on the island, but he also helps him remember all of the wonderful things about living.
Written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as Daniels, Swiss Army Man is magical, funny, poignant, and probably unlike any movie that has been ever made. Though the Daniels obviously enjoy flatulence humor, they use it in a bold and clever way. They probably do get a bit excessive with Manny’s farting at times, but when they use the gag (among other bodily function gags) for some awesome cinematic moments and as a relevant analogy to the story, I cannot criticize its use in the film. The Daniels have made a truly extraordinary film that uses its, otherwise, comedic gags to celebrate the value of life and the importance of living life to its fullest.
I know it may still too early to discuss film accolades, but regardless of one’s thoughts on the film as a whole, no one cannot deny whatsoever that both Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe deliver some of the better performances of the year, thus far. Dano, who absolutely impressed me last year with his performance as Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy, delivers what may be his finest acting in his career up to this point. As Hank, Dano beautifully portrays a man anguished by his past and haunted by opportunities in life that he missed out of his own volition. Radcliffe delivers an incredible and transcendent performance as the child-like Manny, a corpse who has truly forgotten what it is like to be alive.
And that is the main message that the Daniels hope to drive home with their film. People often get so caught up in the process and work involved in living that they often forget about all of the blissful moments that make it all worth while. In teaching/reminding Manny what it is to live, to love, to celebrate, and to hurt, Hank rediscovers all of these experiences and emotions for himself as well. They also rediscover the joys of farting. If one can look past the silly and absurd gags on the surface of this film, then one can truly experience and enjoy the wonder this incredible film.