I finally got a chance to check out Swiss Army Man, which really lives up to its billing as one of the strangest films of the year. I really wasn’t sure what to make of it going in, as I’d heard it had been dubbed the Daniel Radcliffe farting corpse movie, and that kind of rings true watching it.
The great strength of the film is the two central performances from Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. Dano plays Hank, a lonely and depressed man who has ended up stranded on an island. He discovers a corpse, played by Radcliffe, which soon starts to appear to have some special powers, including being able to propel itself across water via farting, and having the ability to talk.
Radcliffe gives an incredible performance as the corpse, dubbed Manny by Hank, and this could be the film where Radcliffe shakes off anyone who doubts his acting ability. Dano meanwhile gives a really heartfelt and moving performance and actually brings a lot of emotion to the film. Whilst Radcliffe’s performance is the far flashier, and will certainly garner a fair amount of attention, Dano’s more understated performance allows Radcliffe to go weirder, and really carries the heart of the film.
Writers and directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert also show off a huge amount of skill and talent in their direction of the film. Their use of music throughout, building it into the actual storytelling of the film, building off what the characters are singing or noises they make. That are also some beautifully constructed shots and sequences.
But for me the script didn’t fully work. It’s a really cool, original idea, and some of the darker humour in the film is great. However this does clash slightly with the flatulence and erection jokes alongside it. Swiss Army Man is certainly at it best when it’s a surprisingly sweet film, about Hank finding friendship and someone who cares about him in this corpse that saves his life, but that falls by the wayside for some large parts of the film.
Swiss Army Man is probably not a film for everyone. If you want a new and different film experience then it’s well worth watching. You have to give credit to originality and some of the direction from Kwan and Scheinert, as well as two excellent and fully committed performances from Dano and Radcliffe. However Swiss Army Man is also a film that can be hard to really love. This is one of the most unique films of the year, but also a flawed one.