The first thing you notice about Swiss Army Man when you research it before watching is the abundance of Dans in it. Like John Green’s abundance of Katherines. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe are in it, while the directors are called Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. It is only fitting that the movie starts off with the words: A Film by Daniels.
Swiss Army Man is the story of Hank Thompson, a man stranded in the wilderness, who has lost all hope of reaching civilization again. On the brink of committing suicide, Hank, played masterfully by Paul Dano, spots a corpse that’s washed up on the shore. It’s ironic in its own way that when Hank tries to commit suicide, a corpse stops him from doing so.
This sets in motion an interesting sequence of events, where Hank, after finding out that the corpse is flatulent, befriends it and calls it Manny. Using the power of Manny’s farts, Hank motors them, but Manny gives out in the middle of the sea and they are both washed up in what seems like another deserted island. Grateful to Manny for having saved his life, Hank decides to haul Manny wherever he goes.
Hank babies the corpse, one that almost comes to life after looking at an old magazine. He also uses Manny’s body like a Swiss army knife, hence the name. Irrespective of this, feelings are born, Manny looks like he is reborn. And when Manny thinks that the phone that has fallen out is his, Hank plays along and convinces Manny that he was in love with Sarah when he was alive. Manny, pulled into the romance of it all, fails to notice (how could he, he’s just a corpse) that Hank is using Manny to get back to civilization and to Sarah.
What follows is absolute, beautiful chaos. With a riveting, haunting soundtrack, it makes the craziness of watching a corpse and a living person engage in conversation seem almost nonexistent. Every situation seems absolutely mental, but it is also poetic and depictive in everything it does, in its own weird way.
Somehow, Swiss Army Man brings a different perspective to things we think about and experience every day. It makes you look at reality in a very raw sense. It is an A-certified film, but more than enough suggests that adults need to watch the film and understand the nuances to get the message. The strangest part of the movie is that its poetry lies in its creepiness.
Swiss Army Man does all the work to confuse you all shades of Sunday. But it is this very weirdness that makes it indescribably adorable (for lack of a better word). And when you think in layman’s terms, like the movie makes you, everything seems to shoot a question at you while seeming impossibly funny.
The movie is gross, but keep an open mind while you watch it, and you’ll enjoy the whole experience. You might even glean the intended meanings behind some scenes, which are absolutely brilliant. As metaphors go, these are woven into the storyline beautifully.
As for the acting, Paul Dano has done a brilliant job as the lost Hank Thompson. But it is Daniel Radcliffe who takes the cake. Acting out expressions in itself is a tough job. Acting as a dead man who is relearning everything about this world, learning about feelings and the heart is a whole other job altogether. And Radcliffe has absolutely killed it. His lopsided smile works so well with him on this character. He has grown up. And how!
For its glorious soundtrack, the cinematography, and the acting, I give it 3.5 stars. I’d have given it 4, had it had a more dramatic ending, but hey! It’s just my opinion! 😉
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Until next time, keep reading, keep watching, and add melodrama to your life. 🙂