Swiss Army Man Review – A Wonderfully Strange Fantasy

If you don’t know Jurassic Park, you don’t know shit.

I will try to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, because I believe that Swiss Army Man is a movie that will benefit from not knowing a lot about the film beforehand.  If you watch the first trailer, that will give you a great perspective on the tone of the film without spoiling a lot of the surprises the film holds.  A lot of the wild fun of the movie is derived from surprising character moments and interactions that have a mesmerizing oddball sensation to them.  Which is the entire feel of the movie, actually.  Swiss Army Man is quite simply a weirdly odd movie, but it is mesmerizing if you allow yourself to buy into the immediately fantastical world the directors have created.

Paul Dano stars as Hank, a young man stranded on an island in the Pacific Ocean who is about to hang himself when he finds a corpse (impeccably portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe) wash up on shore.  Hank then uses the corpse’s amazing farting abilities to travel across the ocean onto land.  They strike up a friendship and survive the wilderness thanks to the many skills that the corpse, who is named Manny, possesses.

And that is essentially the movie.  A sort of road movie involving a close friendship about a lonely man and a farting corpse who sort of comes to life and has a magical erection.  Like I said, it’s a crazy wild movie.  But if you don’t immediately dismiss the movie for the constant farting and off kilter vibe, you will find a uniquely wonderful story about loneliness, the desire for love, the importance of friendship, the ability to survive and overcome obstacles through teamwork, and the endurance of the human spirit.  It is a film worth exploring and experiencing, especially if you are willing to accept the fantastical core of the film.

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Swiss Army Man, which is a film directed by a pair of music video directors who are credited as Daniels, has a tangible energy to it.  It makes things socially considered as ugly like garbage and awkward conversations about masturbation and farting normal and really beautiful at times.  This film could easily be a mess, but thanks to the energetic editing, cinematography, original production design, the amazing pseudo-a capella music (which I’m listening to as I write this review, it’s that great), and skillful writing and directing, Swiss Army Man is a funny, often touching, and highly entertaining film.  And at the center of the film are two amazing performances by Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe.

There are a lot of aspects of Hank (Paul Dano) that are revealed throughout the film that paint new light and changes the audience’s perspective on this lonely individual, but Dano plays him so lovingly with moments of shyness and courage that the character remains endearing to the end.  And Manny is the true star.  Whether he is used as a jet ski or a compass or an ax, this “multi-purpose tool” corpse is a sight to behold.  Radcliffe is asked to do a lot as Manny and he more than up for the challenge.  It is an incredibly skilled, humorous and surprisingly emotional performance.  The way that Radcliffe half crosses his eyes and talks through the corner of his mouth and is always in a physical state akin to a limp ragdoll, while still remaining emotive and human is incredible.  Daniel Radcliffe is amazing to watch in this film.

As much as I want to praise this film, this is not a perfect film because I do feel that it falters a little in the third act.  There is a sequence that I feel is unnecessary that occurs in the final act that unfortunately took me out of the film’s experience.  And there were a couple minor supporting character beats in the final scene that left me a little confused on the motivations behind those beats.  But besides those structural issues I had, this movie is, in a word, magical.

The creators of this film have made a movie the likes I have never witnessed before.  It is so full of love and humor and it relishes and embraces its strangeness full-heartedly.  I adore this film for being so brazenly unique and wholly original.  It touches on so many themes and is a wonder to experience in the theater.  I highly recommend seeing Swiss Army Man, provided you find farts funny, because there are a lot in this film.

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