If you only catch one film this year, make it Swiss Army Man. If there was an Oscar for most original idea, it would go to this ninety minute feature about stranded man on an island who befriends a farting corpse. When you’re alone, but more so on an island, we all need some body to lean on. This is one of those movies that will evoke mass walkouts by those who have a knack to get offended in this era of political correctness. Offense is a direct repercussion of free speech and Swiss Army Man has embraced it right to freedom of expression to the max. There were walkouts at its first Sundance screening too. I feel anyone over the age of forty is going to take issue.
Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s sadistic comedy is the blackest comedy to hit cinema screens in recent years. Paul Dano (Love & Mercy) plays Hank, marooned and alone on an island, writing notes on bottles, begging to be rescued and wishing not to die alone. He’s about to hang himself with a noose, at his wit’s end when he spots something on the shoreline. It’s Radcliffe, in the form of a corpse that has washed up from the ocean. He’s very dead. Dano is utterly depressed and about to kill himself until the corpse moves as he’s putting his head in the noose. Taken with shock, he falls into the noose, nearly killing himself in a bout of tragic comedy when seeing Radcliffe move. I say move, what I actually mean is that our favourite wizard dropping his guts and thus letting out a load of hot air. Man, that blows!
Blurring the lines between psycho-fantasy and black comedy, depicted with quality visuals like Dano using Radcliffe as a jet ski through the oceans, Swiss Army Man is one of the weirdest yet one of the best movies of the year. It’s one of the most original and audacious movies of 2016, especially in a time where every other movie seems to be some money-making blockbuster. Sometimes, it’s good to see a film pushed along by narrative and performance, not just special effects. Daniel Radcliffe is struggling to shake off the role of Harry Potter. Everyone knows him as The Boy Who Lived, and he’s now embarking on more serious roles like in Horns, Kill Your Darlings and Imperium.
Radcliffe does have dialogue as this dead body in the midst of his decomposition. Radcliffe’s comedic timing is second to none as Manny, delivering lines with such sarcasm and dry wit typical of Great Britain. Radcliffe does have dialogue…kind of…as he’s ridden, milked and used as a human torpedo. Even Radcliffe has described it as the best film he’s ever done and the rapport he shares with Dano onscreen is awesome. Their interactions are what drive the film forward and are its beating heart. Hank (Dano) goes beyond the call of duty to make a friendship with Manny (Radcliffe). Dano’s performance is filled with emotional depth and sentiment. Both actors are sensational. This film won’t be for everyone because it’s weirder than weird but those who do see it to the end, might end up liking it.
Despite the quirks, Swiss Army Man is heavily grounded in human reality in the now, intergrated with the pain and trauma, otherwise known as real life. The movie has an important message, even if it tells its message in a dark and sadistic manner.