Swiss Army Man Shows Flawless Ingenuity, But Can it Survive The Puritans?

Swiss Army Man is a strange movie. There is no beating around the bush here. Hank (Paul Dano) has been stuck on a deserted island and has ran out of all options for survival, so he gets ready to hang himself. It is as he is looking out to the ocean he sees a dead body-who he names Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) and discovers that he can use the corpses body and its flatulence as a means of transport to get off the deserted island.  When the pair get off the island, they must find a way to work together in order to find civilization again.

Swiss Army Man is directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan. The film premiered at the Sundance film festival and had audiences divided with many audience members walking out on the film. It’s not hard to understand why this movie would divide audience members. There is a lot of toilet humour in this film, and if those sort of jokes make you uncomfortable, then perhaps this film isn’t for you. However, Scheinert and Kwan use the toilet humour in the film sparingly, and often more as a point of comic relief rather than a serious plot point. Getting past the toilet humour, Scheinert and Kwan have created an amazing movie that takes a serious look at the meaning of life, and how we help ourselves get past hard situations. Scheinert and Kwan have managed to take a ridiculous premise and turn it into a meaningful film about life.

The sound editing in Swiss Army Man is flawless. Andy Hull and Robert McDowell have done an incredible job incorporating the sound in the world and the soundtrack seamlessly. Whenever Manny or Hank are humming a song, the transition from sound in world to the soundtrack (and vice versa) is about as good as it gets. Uniquely to the film, as the opening shots enter the screen, there is only silence. At first I thought there might have been something wrong with my cinema, but as the opening shots of Hank getting ready to hang himself are established; the viewers are harshly brought into the reality of Hank’s situation.

The casting directors of Swiss Army Man deserve a huge round of applause. It’s hard to imagine 2 other actors other than Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe committing to the film in the same degree as these two. In their performances Dano and Radcliffe offer no hesitation, and instead give their all. The two have an incredibly natural chemistry as well, which is why the relationship between a living person and a dead person becomes so understandable – because the pair on screen really look like the sort of people you would go a grab a beer with.

The film defies the cinematic norms every step of the way. Nothing in the film is incredibly logical (even the end of the film refuses to stay at a logical conclusion) but that’s what makes the film so incredibly charming and uplifting. The film is the cinematic version of saying “be yourself, and don’t let anyone else tell you how to be as a person”. Swiss Army Man is incredibly thought provoking, and brilliant absolutely every step of the way.

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