Film review: Swiss Army Man

Eclectic, amusing and impossible to define, ‘Swiss Army Man’ is one of the strangest films of the year.

Jul 21, 2016, updated Jul 21, 2016

Hank (Paul Dano) is trapped on a deserted island and has given up hope of ever being rescued until he discovers a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) washed up on the beach.

Hank and the corpse, whom he names Manny, soon engage in a curious friendship akin to that of Tom Hanks and Wilson (the personified volleyball) in 2000’s Cast Away.

Hank teaches Manny to speak and discovers that he has many other “special abilities”, one of which, his powerful flatulence, propels them both, jetski-like, to the mainland – although it is the wilderness in which they find themselves. Spending several months searching for civilisation, Hank and Manny bond as Hank teaches his companion about the human life he has forgotten how to live.

Directed by Daniel Sheinert and Dan Kwan, Swiss Army Man looks into the complexities of human encounters and relationships through a most unlikely duo. Dano and Radcliffe truly embrace the concept, and have carefully crafted characters that speak to the audience.

Dano’s Hank is neurotic and awkward; his conformity to social norms clashes wonderfully with Manny, who, as a corpse, has no concept of such things.

Hank doesn’t really come out of his shell until he is forced to teach Manny what real life is like. This expansion is wonderful and slashes through the constant slapstick comic relief of Manny’s “special abilities”.

Likewise, Radcliffe’s elevation of his character beyond simply a talking, farting cadaver, and the way in which he finds the warmth and heart of Manny, is a testament to his growth as an actor since his Harry Potter days.

Swiss Army Man breaches the realms of the ordinary and creates a world of its own, where anything is possible. It’s wild and wacky and wonderful, with hints of heart and sentimentality.

A love it or hate it film that will leave a confused grin on the face of all audience members.

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