In the opening scene, the suicidal Hank (Paul Dano) rides the corpse of Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) across the sea like a jet ski, propelled by the dead man’s farts. Your average introduction. This is a marmite movie.
We meet our characters on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Stranded and with no hope, Hank tries, and fails, to end his life through hanging. Seeing a motionless-body swirling in the shallow sea, crashing against the beach with the tide, he runs over to inspect.
In a time when it feels like everything has been done before, first-time directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan’s Swiss Army Man is a beacon of originality. Whether that be in the form of Manny’s corpse’s genitals being used as a compass, his mouth as a gun, or Hanks’ honest dissection of society in a bid to explain the outside world to his deceased friend; from explaining the unspoken etiquette of public transport, to what Netflix is. The dark and sobering moments make the film relatable, despite the crazed story, such as when conversation turns to mortality and Hank’s inner-conflict of thought.
The weird and wonderful world your brain gets conditioned to can sometimes become dizzyingly orthodox and confusing; but the actors’ performances makes it work. Radcliffe totally immerses himself in a role which required being put in some severely unflattering positions. He also shows an incredible control of body and face, becoming utterly convincing in his post-mortem state. Whilst also making himself a likeable character through his child-like innocence; Radcliffe continues to show he’s come a long way from his early days of wand duelling with You-Know-Who, as this is a performance of an Oscar-nomination level.
Despite the creativity and stream of deadpan humour, it does feel like it slips into a bit of a muddle, which it creates for itself, because the film constantly tries to outdo the previous, most ridiculous occurrence. You get a sense that the director doesn’t know how they want the story to end; a lot is crammed into the last five minutes to tie off more leads to the story than it can handle, resulting in them being spilled on the floor. However, it is an enjoyable watch, filled with laughs; which, if you can get into the mind-set of the movie and put all logical reasoning aside, will leave you totally immersed and fascinated. Or you’ll find it completely ridiculous and detest it; there were reports of numerous walkouts during the film’s debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Give it a watch and find out for yourself which side of the fence you’re on.