Review: Swiss Army Man – A film about life, loneliness and freaky flatulence

Swiss Army ManThe new film, Swiss Army Man, is incredibly eccentric and very difficult to describe. If you’re a fan of the music of the Eels, then it will seem like an Eels song come to life (Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living) immediately comes to mind – but there are others), if not, then let’s just say it’s a film about life, loneliness, and freaky flatulence.

It takes almost the entire length of the film’s 90-minute running time for the true nature of its narrative to be revealed, but even then, unless you have experienced desolate and desperate loneliness in your life, it’s likely that you will leave the theater scratching your head and wondering WTF you’ve just witnessed.

Paul Dano plays Hank, whom we meet on a deserted island just as he is about to commit suicide. Suddenly a dead body appears in the surf, an unfortunate corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), who gradually comes back to life, partially, as Hank teaches him about living – at least as he knows it.

As the unlikely heroes try to brave the wilderness and find their way back to civilization, Hank finds multiple maniacal uses for Manny’s body, which allows him to survive and find his way back to the love of his life, Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whom you’ll recognize from 10 Cloverfield Lane.)

As is often said, there is a thin line between comedy and tragedy, and so it goes that with all that depressive stuff said, Swiss Army Man remains a very funny movie as well. If ‘fart jokes’ are your thing, then you are going to be in comedic heaven; but in this film those bodily gases are symbolically more unsettling than normal and come from a place much deeper than the intestines. (Yeah, I can’t believe I just wrote that either.)  

Swiss Army ManRelative newcomers, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (see the “Turn Down for What” video), wrote and directed this movie, billed simply as “Daniels,” and while we’re neck deep in a summer of giant blockbuster sequels, Swiss Army Man is fresh, original and defiantly different.

Radcliffe and the always amazing Paul Dano deliver Oscar worthy performances in their respective roles as Manny and Hank; with Dano literally carrying Radcliffe on his back for much of the movie while Radcliffe is basically a naïve talking, farting ragdoll. Physically challenging roles for both actors.

Swiss Army Man is one of those quirky films that, at first glance, appear to have been made by madmen; but if you are open to its premise and willing to let it percolate in your brain pan for a bit, it can positively change your perspective and get you to look at the world and your life in a new light. And isn’t that what great art is supposed to do… even if it involves farts? Grade: 8.5/10

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.