Review: Swiss Army Man

Most definitely one of the strangest films of the year, possibly THE strangest, brought to you by the Daniels A.K.A. Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, newcomers to the world of feature film and they’re kicking things off with an eclectic bang. Paul Dano is Hank, a man stranded on an island after a boat accident, ready to end it all out of sheer hopelessness, until that is he befriends a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe) that has washed ashore and uses its incredible talents to help him get home.

Paul Dano is a quietly successful actor, he’s the slightly odd looking guy that you might recognise from this or that but rarely gets real recognition despite his hugely varied career, from Little Miss Sunshine to Ruby Sparks to Prisoners, 12 Years a Slave and Love & Mercy, just to name a few. In this particular role he’s wonderful, building a relationship with a dead guy, he gives an odd blend of humour and sheer desperation, his performance is incredibly sad and yet there’s an undeniable uplifting edge to it which is simply fun to watch. Radcliffe has built a real career for himself out of unusual choices, he doesn’t pick the same thing twice and this is the perfect example because despite his real limitations, given that his character is dead, he still manages to do so much and give him a personality and warmth, not to mention having to limit himself so much shows serious dedication. The two of them together have a brilliant chemistry and exchanges that are, of course, the centre of the whole film and they are just fantastic to watch.

The premise for the film is so utterly ridiculous that it passes the point of stupidity and instead just becomes something unique and great, there is of course a literal tonne of humour that is ultimately juvenile but because of the way the film comes across as crazy and exceptionally creative it doesn’t feel juvenile, it is simple, innocent fun. There’s no real moment in the film where the situation becomes normal, there are plenty of reminders littered throughout that this is entirely crazy and weird, which works in the film’s favour as it leaves you never knowing what to expect or what direction it’s going in. The entire film feels vibrant and energetic throughout, from the colours and nature to the creations of multitudes of figures and props for the characters to use, and the music and score. Strangely you’re given these characters to invest in based on fairly little information and yet it manages to avoid feeling like there’s something missing, the detail simply isn’t vital. There are some themes that become rather repetitive and at times it can feel like it’s headed more in circles than any particular direction but as time elapses and the friendship builds between our two leads, it replaces anything that might be missing in that aspect.

Swiss Army Man is strange, unusual, weird and slightly insane but completely avoids any hint of alienating the audience, it takes things back to basics while being entirely outside of the box. Dano and Radcliffe are wonderful to watch and this crazy blossoming friendship with a dead guy is more heartfelt than most modern rom-coms can muster. It’s certainly a different experience than most films you’ll find out at the moment but it’s one that will leave you going home happy. It will be interesting to see what these two directors come up with next.

Verdict: 8/10

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