Swiss Army Man is as mad, as chaotic, as weird as you expect. But it is also utterly brilliant. Though this tale of a castaway and a magical corpse is strange, it seems to find a beauty within the madness, both aesthetically and thematically, leaving you dumbfounded yet tearful by the conclusion.
Daniels, directing their first feature, bring a level of competency to an absurd concept; while on paper the plot seems impossible to pull off, they seem to bring enough charm and heart to keep us invested even when we question the films reality. This Is done mainly through the gorgeous visuals and unique soundtrack, which is in many ways the standout element of the film, but Daniels also ensure to bring a level of depth to our two protagonists; Paul Dano’s Hank and Daniel Radcliffe’s Manny. Both give incredibly humorous yet heart wrenching performances to roles that continue to surprise throughout, ensuring you are left questioning till the final frame. The chemistry between the leads is palpable and it is their bond that acts as the heart of the movie; finding in each other the love needed to bring someone back to life. Considering the ludicrous concept of a magical multipurpose corpse, it would be easy to write off the film as sheer stupidity yet we remain invested in the character’s struggles and arcs. Perhaps it is due to the films complete commitment to its concept and its humour; it is fully aware of itself, of its stupidity, and still revels in it – we are told directly to not overthink things and instead allow our emotions to guide us through the cinematic journey.
Daniels seem to constantly subvert our expectations. They use masturbatory and poop jokes yet, unlike their comedic contemporaries (Happy Madison), they manage to pull off this crude gross out humour – raising genuine laughs without appearing condescending to the audience. Above being one of the funniest films I’ve seen in years, Swiss Army Man remains a surprisingly (there’s that word again) deep and interpretive movie; while I have my own theories it would be best to make your own judgements on viewing the film. However, despite my praises, this is one film where I can understand some of the hate; the boundless charm and energy that kept me invested can come across as overly whimsical whilst the dreamlike reality of the cinematic world may prevent investment in the narrative. Though the film carries good momentum, the final act loses some coherency that can leave a slight whiplash effect; the film going from a slow progress to a series of rapid reveals.
Swiss Army Man may appear on the surface to be style over substance but peel back the layers and you will find a witty and heartfelt dark comedy about two friends on a journey of self-discovery.