Swiss Army Man

People walked out of the theatre when this film debuted at Sundance, and they walked out of the screening I was at recently as well. And while I would never dream of insulting a film maker this way at a film festival, I can kind of understand why it happened. Swiss Army Man is profoundly uncomfortable. It’s disturbing. It’s gross. It’s also one of the most affecting and unique film-going experiences I’ve had this year, or ever.

swiss-army-manIn this cross between Castaway and Weekend at Bernie’s, Paul Dano is Hank, a man despairing of hope after living too long on a deserted island. Just as he’s about to give up completely, a ray of sunshine arrives in the form of a farting corpse (Daniel Radcliffe). Eventually named Manny, the corpse helps Hank to not feel so alone or lonely, and becomes even handier as he proves himself a veritable multi-use tool in Hank’s plot to escape the island.

I can’t praise or caution this movie enough. If the desecration of corpses is not for you, I’m sure The BFG is playing somewhere. I wouldn’t have guessed that the desecration of corpses was particularly for me, but I was completely won over by this movie. Written and directed by ‘Daniels’ (as Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan are collectively known), these men are clearly innovative thinkers who are pushing the boundaries not just of movie making but of human decency – and it works. They have used a compelling if shocking situation and made it feel completely relatable. They boil it down to themes of depression, social isolation, family dysfunction, eccentricity and resilience.

Paul Dano is as good as he’s ever been, but Daniel Radcliffe is the true surprise here. I would Swiss-Army-Man-Featuredhave loved to be a fly on the wall when these two were in negotiations to join the movie; Daniels were known for little else than a bizarre music video (Turn Down For What) yet somehow convinced two smart, bankable stars to take on the most provocative film of the year (and you thought The Lobster safely had the title!). Radcliffe stretches the part of dead body into something that’s both absurd and touching. He’s clearly set on eradicating Harry Potter from our memories by making bold and interesting choices, and this is a definitive step toward a bracing career as a versatile actor.

I also have to say I love what they did with the music. Not just the score, though that was good too. You have to see the movie to know what I’m talking about, but the way this movie uses music really made my heart soar. It really elevated for me what was already a good movie – a smart script paired with excellent acting, topped with some truly beautiful photography.

Sean and Matt will tell you that I’m probably the last person on earth to enjoy scatological humour but I did find myself laughing at this movie, more than I thought I would (although I think I might need to invoke Vanta-black once again, with feeling). But mostly it made me think, which I didn’t expect at all. It made me really think, and sometimes feel sad. It made me think on the possibilities and limitations of imagination, on the nature of self-reflection, and on the merits of choosing a best friend who is dead.

A movie like this doesn’t come along very often. I’m still buzzing with the joy I feel when I know I’ve witnessed something special. I won’t sleep tonight. This is why I go to the movies.

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70 thoughts on “Swiss Army Man

  1. calensariel

    I had to read that one to my son. He’s now totally intrigued. I doubt we’ll ever see it here. Especially if it wasn’t a hit at Sundance…That’s Utah for ya!

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  2. Tom

    Ah, this is great to see another glowing review of this, as it blew me out of the water too. With flatulence!! Daniel Radcliffe is a performer who just made a dead body one of my favorite characters this year. How he did that I still do not know but I am so glad I went to see this. And I’m going to say something that willprobably make people resent this thjng, but it’s uniqueness absolutely made it one of the best movies I have ever seen. It’s simply dazzling

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Jay Post author

      I would totally agree. It was REFRESHING amid all the sequelitis, a truly different story, but it was supported by thoughtful writing and great acting.

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. moviemavengal

    I was at the premiere at Sundance, and I’ve never been in a showing like that with so many walkouts. But as you said, this film is unforgettable. I did laugh out loud at things I never would have thought I would have found funny before this film. Totally agree with you about Daniel Radcliffe’s amazing performance, too. It wasn’t my favorite at Sundance, but it sure was the craziest!

    I included some pictures I took of the cast and the Daniels from the premiere in my review here: https://moviemavengal.com/2016/06/13/swiss-army-man-the-craziest-weirdest-movie-i-saw-at-sundance-2016/

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      1. moviemavengal

        Captain Fantastic which is out this weekend, at least in limited release. So many good ones this year. Birth of a Nation I hope will be up for Oscars galore. Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Manchester By The Sea also fantastic. Complete rundown: bhttps://moviemavengal.com/2016/04/07/what-i-saw-and-liked-at-the-2016-sundance-film-festival/

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      1. DotedOn

        Hahahaha, of course you can! 😀
        You can tell how bad it is in my case. Daniel Radcliffe, for me, has almost the same status of Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe. That’s why I banned Harry Potter from my house :D. If I accept to watch a movie with him, you must know how interesting I find the subject 🙂

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  4. kmSalvatore

    wow..that is very interesting..to say the least.. just reading this jay.. makes me wonder how id act being completely all alone maybe forever.. how would ya act, what would you do.. yes ..definitely a thinking movie.. its going over to the maybe pile:)

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yeah. I’d go bonkers. And I talk to myself even on a good day. I’m not sure I’d befriend a corpse though. I’m more likely to go the Wilson route like Tom Hanks in Castaway.

      Liked by 2 people

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    1. Jay Post author

      I’m sure your son will love it but I’m not sure it’s one that you’ll want to see with him – there’s some very frank talk about erections and masturbation.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. Jenna and Allie (@FlickChicksBlog)

    I don’t think my curiosity could grow any more for this movie! When I first saw the trailer my only thought was ‘WTF’, but the more I watched it, the more I started to think that this has the potential to be my favourite of the year. Can’t wait for the UK release 🙂
    – Allie

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    1. Jay Post author

      I heard about it just as the “farting corpse movie” and knew it was divisive – that was enough to hook me. But I’m weird like that.

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  6. J.

    Very Interested in this one. Splendid write-up, too – really good job of confirming this is one I need to see.

    Never sewn Harry Potter, but I do like yon Radcliffe chap.

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Sean

    Both leads are amazing and the movie really worked for me. The Lobster is a good movie to mention because they’re both unique and I think Swiss Army Man will grow on me like the Lobster did.

    My two cents: it’s a lot of weird to take in all at once but I really enjoyed Swiss Army Man – it’s strangely sweet.

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Liz A.

    Wow. I didn’t expect that review. Seemed like a strange concept to me.

    Daniel Radcliffe has talked about what prompted him to take the role in various interviews. He’s going in a different direction with his career. That’s probably a good thing.

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  9. Anna (Film Grimoire)

    Oh my god, I cannot wait to see this. Daniel Radcliffe can do no wrong in my eyes (although I never did see Horns, which I’m not sure many people enjoyed). This just sounds so weird. I’m totally into it.

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  10. Bun Karyudo

    I find this one a bit hard to imagine. I guess I’ll just have to see for myself. I’ll get a seat near the end of the row so I can make a gasp and make a theatrical exit if it all gets too shocking for me.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Haha, yes, if you go all church lady and you find yourself too offended to go, do be sure to make a scene to make everyone else feel snobbily superior. It adds to the experience 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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  11. Jordan Dodd

    This sounds amazing. People who walk out on films are twits IMO, most of the time anyway. They did the same thing, at least ten people, at The Lobster and that movie was awesome!! This comes out here next week, I’ll be there on day one. This and Tom’s review has me super psyched 😀

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  12. reocochran

    Some of this reminded me of “Lars and the . . .” (Girl?) My brain is not on charge here up at my Mom’s senior living apartment!
    The movie, “Weekend at Bernie’s” was good and quirky weird movies sometimes appeal to me. . . I have never watched any of the Harry Potter franchise, but am a big fan of Daniel Radcliffe! 🙂

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    1. Jay Post author

      When I first heard about it, I didn’t realize a real actor would play the corpse – I imagined it would just be a CPR dummy or something. It’s a treat.

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. allendemir

        I thought it was some goofy, oddball comedy about a guy who meets a man who can do anything, like a Swiss army knife. Probably not something you should take a kid to see then.

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  13. Courtney Young

    This is why I go to the movies is right! What a total surprise of a movie, and I’ve read a few great sites that analyzed the movie making me think deeper and deeper into the plot! I’ll never understand why people walk out of movies, especially at a festival!

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  15. jwforeva

    This will take forever to show where I’m from urgh. But I’m definitely extremely excited. I can’t wait to watch this, not have a good night’s rest and then talk all about it 🙂

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