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Swiss Army Man

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Just when you think you’ve seen it, all along comes a movie to help remind us all that we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the human imagination. Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter to the majority of movie-goers, is once again putting a little distance between his iconic reign of the wizarding world that spanned 11 years and the somewhat eclectic collection of characters that he’s played since. Gone is the innocent looking, clean cut kid that we became accustomed to. A young man stands in his place eager to show that he has the range to be so much more. No stranger to offbeat roles (look no further than Horns (2013)), Radcliffe has once again found himself a “less-than-traditional” role. Let’s find out just what he has up his sleeves in his latest work, Swiss Army Man.
Hank (Paul Dano) is at the end of his rope, quite literally. Poor Hank has been stranded on an apparent deserted island for a long time. Fighting loneliness, hunger and despair, he decides to end it all by taking his own life via hanging. At that particular fateful moment in time Hank notices a lifeless body that has just washed up onto the shore. With a new purpose, Hank rushes to this person’s aid. After some poking, prodding and a few rudimentary resuscitation maneuvers, Hank goes back to thinking he’s once again alone. Fortunately for Hank though, Swiss Army Man isn’t your typical movie and the normal rules of nature DO NOT APPLY. Hank’s new beach bud, whom we’ll come to know as Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), is also far from normal. Manny becomes an “all-purpose” friend as these two strengthen their bond as they try to find a way back to civilization. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Swiss Army Man is everything but normal.
There’s no disputing that the modern movie industry has become mostly stagnant in new idea department. Swiss Army Man is definitely one of those movies won’t be lumped into that category. This fact was secured the very moment that it was revealed that tandem of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert aka “DANIELS” were the ones that came up with this movie idea. You see, DANIELS gained huge notoriety for the instantly addictive music video for 2013’s “Turn Down for What” performed by DJ Snake and Lil’ Jon in which they directed. The visual insanity was something that made the video a must-see and was a huge talking point for a long time. They then leveraged that success into future projects. One of those projects is what we have before us today. It’s plainly and abundantly clear that these two are the minds behind this work as co-writers and co-directors. Their unique approach is one that most of the traditional audiences will have a slight challenge following. My advice to those people would be to treat this like any other fantasy type film, expect the unexpected and don’t question the validity behind it. If animals can sing and dance in animated movies, why can’t a living guy and a dead guy be friends?
A buddy film is only as good as the buddies so it’s all about the chemistry of the two main actors. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe have that chemistry, albeit in an unconventional way. There’s a great range emotion displayed by both actors throughout. One might argue that the vegetative and monotone state in which Radcliffe performs throughout may have been the more difficult part to pull off. As the Swiss Army Man, he is basically used as a tool throughout which also means he’s useless without someone to use him. Dano is tasked with handling the crux of the traditional acting; in that respect he is pretty much a one man show. The formula used to bring these two together works pretty well on camera and I can only imagine the challenges that went into getting this all to appear “normal” on screen. Aside from these two, there are really only two other characters that play into the story. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (most recently seen in 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)) plays Sarah, the love interest of Hank and, by extension, Manny. The other character is Hank’s father, played by Richard Gross (Milk (2008)).
Swiss Army Man marches to the beat of a different drum and may not be received well by traditional audiences, at first…Count me in as one of the people with no idea of what to expect. All I knew is that it was going to be different. Just how different was something I wasn’t expecting. The DANIELS film delivers on the “engaging story” front and that’s all that’s needed to rope the mildly interested in. Upon getting past the complete absurdity on which the plot is built, the overall message is quite engaging and heartfelt. Well written, well acted and well…just crazy, gives just enough insanity to make it crazy good. This is in no way a spoiler but the very last three words spoken (which I won’t reveal here) in this movie is a perfect summation of everything that has transpired over the previous 90 or so minutes.

Swiss Army Man is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Carl Wheeler

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