Every now and again excellent films pass and go unnoticed or underappreciated. This can be due to their abstract plots, their unprecedented characters that defy audience expectations or because their titles lack the word ‘girl’. Swiss Army Man is the latest in this rare breed of films.
The latest outing from writing and directing duo Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, or ‘Daniels’ as they’re credited here, this indie comedy-drama is a step up from their catalogue of short films that have come before (Interesting Ball, Pockets, My Best Friend’s Sweating). It stars Paul Dano as Hank, a marooned young man who is about to hang himself before spotting the bloated and flatulent corpse that is Daniel Radcliffe’s Manny. An unlikely pair to say the least, but a duo that will keep you enthralled throughout their brisk 97 minute fart-filled and heart-warming odyssey.
The calibre of acting from these two is outstanding. Dano reprises the role of the strange young man that he’s taken on before in films like There Will be Blood and Prisoners, while the former ‘Boy Who Lived’ delivers an awards-worthy performance despite playing a man who is dead. Showcasing an uncanny control over his facial and bodily movements, I’m moved to say that Radcliffe pulls off what may be the best portrayal of a corpse who can both talk and operate his rectum as if it was a jet-ski engine in the entire history of cinema.
Technically speaking this film doesn’t offer anything as groundbreaking as Radcliffe’s performance however that’s not to say it’s lacklustre. Audiences will be wowed by the saturated environments presented in each frame; striking oceanic blues, verdant forestry and the warm orange of campfires inhabit the screen throughout Swiss Army Man. The audio and sound effects are crisp throughout the adventure and this is particularly on point during a survival montage that occurs a little over the halfway mark. Accompanying this sound and setting is an elevating acapella soundtrack that is interwoven into the dialogue, crafted by Andy Hull and Robert McDowell, the ‘do’s, ‘da’s and ‘ba’s adding to the absurd yet inspirational tone that is ever-present throughout this film.
And this kooky atmosphere is what’s ultimately so charming about Swiss Army Man. Never have I been so simultaneously confused yet satisfied by a movie, never have I had such morbid scenarios presented in such a way as to deliver The Sound of Music levels of heart-string plucking. Other filmmakers try to cheaply evoke emotions out of you with fatigued tropes and overused story-telling techniques, but here the Daniels offer audiences something new, something difficult to portray, something that needs to be seen to be believed. So if you make a trip to the cinema this week ignore Inferno, Bridget Jones’ Baby and The Girl on the Train because Swiss Army Man is a testament to all those movies that take the path rarely tread, and for this reason it is truly unique.
Director: Daniel Scheinert, Dan Kwan
Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe
CT Rating: 4.5 Stars
Brendan Garrett | Film & TV Writer